The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has launched its new campaign entitled "Talk. They Hear You" with the goal of reducing underage drinking among youth ages 9 to 15. The campaign provides parents and caregivers with the information and resources they need to start addressing underage alcohol use with their children.
Underage drinking is a serious issue in the United States. The 2011 Monitoring the Future survey found that 33 percent of 8th graders and 70 percent of 12th graders in the U.S. reported that they had tried alcohol at some point in their lives, while 65 percent of teens who do drink alcohol said that they get drunk at least once in a typical month.
Here in Massachusetts the numbers are even higher, with almost 78 percent of 12th graders reporting having tried alcohol at least once in their lives and over half of all 12th graders used alcohol at least once in the month prior to the survey. Additionally, one quarter of all 11th graders and 34 percent of all 12th graders reported “binge drinking”, defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row within a couple of hours, in the month prior to the survey (source: 2011 MA Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System). Statistics from our own 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey given to all Melrose students in 7-12th grade will also soon be available for comparison.The consequences and the economic costs of underage drinking are substantial. In Massachusetts alone, underage drinking costs over $1.4 billion per year, however, the problems associated with underage drinking do not always show themselves in the ways we may typically think (i.e. drunk driving crashes). The costs are related to countless other community wellness measures including violence, unintentional injury, drug use, property crime, academic failure, and risky sexual behavior. The chart below illustrates this:
Costs of Underage Drinking, Massachusetts, 2010
Youth Traffic Crashes
High-Risk Sex, Ages 14-20
Youth Property Crime
Poisonings and Psychoses
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome among Mothers Age 15-20
Youth Alcohol Treatment
Many parents with children between the ages of 9 and 15 know that peer pressure and media influences may increase underage drinking, however, they may not be fully aware of the immediate dangers of their children’s alcohol consumption. The campaign provides a great deal of useful information to help parents feel equipped to properly address the topic with their children.
The campaign will feature messages that:
· Emphasize the importance of parents talking to their kids about underage drinking before they reach the age range when alcohol use typically begins (before the age of 15)
· Offer advice to parents about preparing children to deal with peer pressure issues that may lead to alcohol abuse
· Highlight underage drinking statistics that are likely to catch parents’ attention
· Focus on helping parents address the issue of underage drinking in a manner that emphasizes their children’s ability to make autonomous decisions
· Model behaviors and situations when parents can begin the conversation about the dangers of alcohol with their children.
The SAMHSA campaign gives parents knowledge, resources, and confidence when talking to their children about alcohol. SAMHSA conducted nationwide focus groups and interviews with parents and children and talked with many key stakeholders to better understand the needs and attitudes of parents with children ages 9 to 15. The information gathered has formed the foundation of the campaign and provided a road map for parents. Be on the lookout for this campaign on the radio, television, print public service announcements, and on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also visit the campaign’s website www.underagedrinking.samhsa.gov to learn more about the campaign and its partnership networks. Use these resources to start—and continue—talking with your children about the dangers of underage drinking.
To learn more about the Melrose Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and its work, or to join the coalition, please contact us at 781-979-4128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org