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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
March/April 2010, Volume 18, Number 2 

Image of Take Action, Talk Early, Talk Often, Get Others Involved

Underage Drinking Prevention Begins with a Conversation

When do kids start thinking about alcohol? In eighth grade? “Not my son,” says a parent in one of the new public service announcements (PSAs) from SAMHSA and the Ad Council. In the PSA, the parent is talking about a lifesize mannequin. The message? “Real kids are curious about alcohol.”

“SAMHSA’s new public awareness campaign emphasizes that it’s never too early to talk to children about the dangers of alcohol,” said Frances M. Harding, Director of the Agency’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). “The campaign’s Web site shows parents how to take action.”

“Parents with kids in middle school may think that they don’t have to deal with underage drinking until their children reach high school,” said Heidi Arthur, senior vice president for campaigns at the Ad Council.

However, according to SAMHSA’s 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), adults age 21 or older who started using alcohol before age 15 were almost six times as likely to have alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who first used alcohol at age 21 or older (15.1 percent vs. 2.6 percent).


So, why don’t parents take underage alcohol use more seriously? According to the Ad Council, the reasons for the lack of urgency are complex.

Denial. Parents often turn to the “other people’s children” belief when someone mentions teenage drinking. Their child may get good grades or play sports, leading to a false sense of security among parents.

“No big deal.” Parents also may underestimate the seriousness of underage alcohol use, thinking that it’s not harmful if their children drink a little or at family functions.

Hypocrisy. And then there’s the “psychology of hypocrisy.” Many parents who drank alcohol as teens may not know how to answer when their children ask why they can’t drink if mom or dad did.

Tools for Parents

Enter SAMHSA’s new underage drinking prevention campaign, which uses the digital landscape to reach parents. Visit to learn more.

The campaign gives parents concrete tools and tips for talking with their children about alcohol, even though such conversations are not easy.

Conversation Starters. Parents will find sample answers for several tough questions, including:

  • “You drink alcohol—why can’t I?”
  • “Did you drink alcohol when you were a child?”
  • “What if my friends ask me to drink?”

Action Plan. Answer three simple questions and get more tailored advice on talking to children about alcohol. The questions are:

  • Is your child a boy or a girl?
  • How old is your child?
  • Have you talked to your child about drinking?

The resulting action plan includes three categories: When To Talk, How To Talk, and Other Things You Can Do. For more information, visit

Previously in SAMHSA News on Underage Drinking

Game Helps Parents & Children Talk about Alcohol

State Prevention Videos

How Does Turning 21 Affect Alcohol Use?

Under the Influence: Fathers, Adolescents, and Alcohol Use

Underage Drinking & Media Literacy

Awareness, Prevention Make a Difference

Radio PSAs Help Parents “Start Talking”

Campaign Objective

To urge parents to speak with their children about the importance of avoiding alcohol.

Target Audience

Parents of 11- to 15-year-olds

Online Resources

Underage Drinking Prevention Portal:

SAMHSA’s Too Smart To Start program

National Teach-In


To delay onset and reduce underage drinking

Amplifying the Message

The new public awareness materials represent the second phase of a campaign that first launched in 2005 with the tagline, “Start Talking Before They Start Drinking.”

The first round of PSAs featured very young children talking about having problems with alcohol later in life because they started drinking in their teens.


  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Take Action in Your Community

Take Action in Your Community

Three new campaigns bring powerful prevention messages to communities.

  From the Administrator  
Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

Considering Language in Our Field

Do you use certain terms to describe our field? See terms.

  More on Underage Drinking  
Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

The STOP program is making a difference. Read about grantees in Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

Town Hall Meetings Continue To Expand

Nearly 1,800 communities across the Nation recently met to discuss underage drinking.

State Estimates on Underage Drinking

State by state, the numbers differ on children and alcohol use.

  Women & Substance Abuse  
Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Gender makes a difference. TIP 51 can help providers offer women effective, up-to-date treatment.

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Comparing data from 1992 and 2007 on admission rates.

  Treatment Updates  
Uninsured Workers: Recent Data

Uninsured Workers: Data

Who needs treatment for substance abuse?

Free Treatment Available

Some facilities offer substance abuse treatment at no charge or a sliding scale fee.

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Methadone maintenance, buprenorphine maintenance. What are the similarities and differences among OTPs?

  Evidence-Based Practices  
Evidence-Based Practices KITs

Evidence-Based Practices KITs

The Knowledge Information Transformation (KIT) series offers new KITs.

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

The Agency outlines a budget request totaling $3.7 billion.

More on the Budget . . .

Established programs, new initiatives, and SAMHSA’s Budget Authority by Activity and the Agency’s Congressional Justification.

  Grants Updates  
Promoting Mental Health Recovery

Promoting Mental Health

Five behavioral health care provider associations recently received funding.

  Media & Messages  
Art & Children’s Mental Health

Art & Children’s Mental Health

Every day is Children’s Mental Health Day: “My Feelings Are a Work of Art.”

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

Share the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Minds on the Edge

Minds on the Edge

Facing mental illness is the subject of a PBS program.

  Recovery Month  
Flyers Available

Flyers Available

For 2010 celebrations, the flyers are available in print and online.

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Thousands of children age 12 to 17 with pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma used inhalants.


Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration – 1 Choke Cherry Road – Rockville, MD 20857
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