Underage Drinking: Grantees Reveal Sober Truth
By Rebecca A. Clay
Reducing alcohol use among young people is the goal of SAMHSA’s Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking (STOP) program. Funded through SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), the program helps existing community coalitions across the Nation work to develop effective strategies tailored to reach not only youth but also families.
Launched in 2008, the STOP program now supports 102 grantees. Read three grantee stories — Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.
STOP grantees are communities that have already mobilized, built capacity, and developed a comprehensive strategy for reducing youth substance abuse under the Drug Free Communities grant program, which is directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in partnership with SAMHSA. The 4-year STOP grants allow these communities to expand their efforts and focus specifically on underage drinking.
Grantees focus on changing the culture around them rather than specific individuals, using strategies from the 2007 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking.
“Prevention science tells us that effective, comprehensive, substance abuse prevention strategies focus not only on strengthening the resilience of young people, but also on changing the conditions that surround them,” explained Jayme S. Marshall, M.S., Chief of the Community Grants and Emerging Issues Branch at CSAP. “Environmental factors work toward shaping the acceptability of substance use, the availability of substances, and the consequences of using illegal substances, which include alcohol and tobacco for minors.”
The coalitions use a wide variety of strategies to tackle their underage drinking problems (see grantee stories).
In some communities, for example, the goal is simply to raise people’s awareness.
“There are some communities where parents are still supplying alcohol to young people or see alcohol use as a rite of passage,” said Ms. Marshall. “In those areas, coalitions are trying to help people understand that youth drinking is dangerous.” Coalitions are also enlisting the help of young people themselves.
Other coalitions are trying to change their communities’ attitudes and norms by changing practices, such as putting new restrictions on alcohol use by adults attending youth sporting events. Others are re-evaluating existing laws and policies, such as changes in judicial punishments for youth alcohol violations.
A coalition in California has even enlisted the help of local builders. “Locked medicine cabinets and locked cabinets for alcohol are built right into the homes they’re building,” said Ms. Marshall.
The three grantee highlights are Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.