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SAMHSA News - March/April, Volume 14, Number 2

Reach Out Now Offers Materials to Schools

To highlight Alcohol Awareness Month in April, SAMHSA and Scholastic, Inc., are sponsoring a nationwide teach-in for fifth- and sixth-graders from April 3 to 7.

Alcohol use among children and adolescents starts early and increases with age, according to data from SAMHSA's 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). In that survey, about 10.8 million youth age 12 to 20 (nearly 30 percent) reported using alcohol at least once in the month prior to the survey.

This year's teach-ins to prevent underage drinking are part of SAMHSA's annual Reach Out Now activities. The effort gives prominent national, state, local, and youth leaders an opportunity to use the research-based curriculum to educate students, parents, and other community members about the dangers of underage alcohol use.

According to NSDUH, more than 40 percent of individuals who start drinking before age 15 will develop alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

SAMHSA and Scholastic sent materials to fifth-grade teachers across the country for the first time in 2002. Beginning in 2004, similar materials were distributed to sixth-grade teachers nationwide.

Partnering with SAMHSA, Scholastic offers resources such as classroom lessons and take-home tools to encourage the discussion of underage drinking in school and at home, provide children with accurate information on the effects of alcohol on the body, and help children practice critical thinking and self-expression skills that are needed to make healthy decisions.

Teach-in participants receive packets of information that include a lesson plan as well as a media kit and CD-ROM that contain templates for creating press releases and pitch letters. The packets also include Too Smart To Start crossword puzzles and word searches that reinforce parts of the curriculum, such as symptoms of alcohol use, as well as congratulatory certificates for students who complete the program and for adults who lead the teach-ins. SAMHSA's Too Smart to Start initiative is an alcohol awareness program that focuses on 9- to 13-year-old children and their parents and caregivers. (See SAMHSA News, March/April 2005.)

In addition to teaming with Scholastic, SAMHSA has also joined with several other national partners, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), to expand overall awareness and reach of the event.

Based on a two-part set of materials, Reach Out Now: Talk with Your Fifth Grader About Underage Alcohol Use and Reach Out Now: Start Talking Before They Start Drinking, the national teach-in event alerts children, parents, and teachers about the dangers of underage alcohol use and reinforces the message that it is unacceptable at school and at home.

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In the Classrooms

At the end of a Reach Out Now lesson, students should be able to:

  • Describe some of the effects of alcohol on the brain and body.

  • Identify effective alternatives to using alcohol.

  • Work in groups to develop an effective alcohol prevention message.

Communities nationwide are encouraged to participate, and anyone who has a positive influence on young people can be a teach-in presenter. Participants at previous events include governors and lieutenant governors, mayors, congresspersons and senators, faith leaders, school personnel, and health care professionals.

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Playing a Vital Role

Parents, teachers, and caregivers play a vital role in influencing children's attitudes about alcohol. They give children the knowledge to recognize the dangers of underage drinking, help children build skills to reject alcohol offered by peers, express clear and consistent messages that alcohol use is unacceptable, and reinforce children's ability to make healthy decisions.

Additional information about SAMHSA's underage drinking prevention programs is available at and

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