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SAMHSA News - Volume X, No. 2, Spring 2002
 

Teachers Receive Information on Underage Drinking

In a unique collaboration between SAMHSA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Scholastic, Inc., classroom teachers nationwide this past spring received a two-part set of materials related to underage drinking. This information is designed especially for use by fifth-grade students, their families, and their teachers.

The materials included Reach Out Now: Talk with Your Fifth Grader About Underage Drinking, a four-page set of lessons and in-class activities for teachers to use as part of classroom instruction. Also included was a take-home packet for students and their parents: Talk with Your Fifth Grader About Underage Drinking. The materials are based on research supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and programs funded by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).

SAMHSA's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse suggests that fifth grade—age 10 to 11—is not too early to begin sending clear messages about underage drinking. Almost 10.5 million youth age 12 to 20—nearly 30 percent—had used alcohol at least once in the month prior to the survey. The average age of first use continues to drop.

"Our message that underage drinking is unacceptable and illegal needs to reach down to elementary and middle school students, teachers, and their families," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "The benefits of discussion stimulated by the Reach Out Now materials can last a lifetime."

"The good news is that 60 percent of young people age 12 to 17 have never had a drink. What parents and teachers may not realize is that their disapproval of underage drinking has been identified as one of the key reasons children choose not to drink," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.

The Reach Out Now materials have been received enthusiastically by the Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free, a consortium of Governors' spouses from states across the country, who are helping to raise awareness and promote use of the materials. Additional information about the prevention activities of the Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free is available at www.alcoholfreechildren.org.

The Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free is supported not only by NIAAA and SAMHSA, but also by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NIH's Office of Research on Women's Health and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Departments of Justice and Transportation.

The Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools program has announced the availability of the materials for use in school-based programs as well.

Reach Out Now: Talk with Your Fifth Grader About Underage Drinking includes lessons and in-class activities focusing on increasing fifth graders' knowledge about alcohol and its effects on the developing child, ways to make healthy decisions about drinking, and alternative activities to underage drinking. Teachers are shown how to incorporate the materials into classroom curricula in English, social studies, and science.

The take-home packet for students and their parents gives families concrete, health-promoting activities that can help a child reject underage drinking. It provides six key actions parents can take to help children make wise decisions:

  • Maintain good lines of communication.
  • Get involved in your children's lives.
  • Make and enforce clear and consistent rules.
  • Serve as a positive role model.
  • Help your children know how to choose friends wisely.
  • Be aware of their activities.

This public/private partnership allows SAMHSA to merge its knowledge about prevention of underage drinking with Scholastic, Inc.'s, reputation for excellence in the development of classroom materials to help bring this important message about alcohol to America's youth.

For more information about ways to reduce youth alcohol use, contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). Or visit SAMHSA's Web site at www.samhsa.gov.

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