Back-to-school underage drinking prevention tools

Back-to-School Tools for Preventing Underage Drinking from

Summer’s over, and it’s back-to-school time. For students, the beginning of the school year means new routines, new friends, new stresses, and new social situations (football games, Homecoming, Halloween parties) where they’ll have easy access to alcohol. For parents, it’s an important time to connect with teens, talk frankly about the risks of underage drinking, and reinforce clear no-use rules about alcohol. For teachers and communities, it’s a critical time to be prepared with evidence-based tools to help prevent underage drinking and build students’ abilities to resist alcohol and make smart choices for their future health and well-being.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are an estimated 10.4 million underage drinkers in the United States. More specifically, the National Institute on Drug Abuse–funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 13.8 percent of 8th graders, 28.9 percent of 10th graders, and 41.2 percent of 12th graders had consumed at least one drink in the 30 days prior to being surveyed and that 5.0 percent of 8th graders, 14.7 percent of 10th graders, and 26.8 percent of 12th graders had been drunk. In addition, the survey showed that 83 percent of college students have tried alcohol at least once in their lifetime and that 69 percent reported they have been drunk. More alarming is the occurrence of binge drinking—36 percent of college students reported having consumed five or more drinks in a row at least once in the 2 weeks before completing the survey.

While the numbers are grim, the good news is these figures represent a decline in lifetime alcohol consumption among students on all levels. However, underage drinking is still a major public health and safety issue, and we still need to take action to tackle the problem. Thankfully, many resources are available to support your local underage drinking prevention efforts and lay the groundwork for a healthy school year. 


  • The Back-to-School Fact Sheet from the Office of National Drug Control Policy highlights drinking and drug use figures and trends among students, the effects of alcohol on students’ health and academic performance, and communications tips for parents.

For Educators and Other School Staff:

  • Effective alcohol prevention and education programs in schools are an essential part of a community’s comprehensive strategy for preventing and reducing underage drinking. Many are described in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.


  • Reach Out Now (RON) is a collaboration between SAMHSA and Scholastic Inc. to provide effective school-based underage alcohol use prevention materials. The package of materials was developed for fifth- and sixth-grade teachers and features ready-to-use lesson plans and worksheets, an interactive wall poster, bonus skill-building activity worksheets, and family pages to help jump-start discussions at home.
  • Building Blocks for a Healthy Future (Building Blocks), geared toward 3- to 6-year-olds, is a primary prevention program based on principles established by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Through activities, discussion, and exploration, Building Blocks materials help parents, caregivers, and educators promote the healthy social and emotional development of young children in order to prevent future substance abuse.
  • The NIDA Goes Back to School campaign, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is a source for free information about the latest science-based drug abuse publications and teaching materials.
  • The Cool Spot—Teacher’s Corner is a section of The Cool Spot—a Web site from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for youth aged 11 to 13—features lesson plans to help teachers and educators in broaching the subject of alcohol abuse. The plans are aimed toward middle school students and include quizzes and interactive/role-playing activities.
  • Too Smart To Start provides school-based materials that focus on preventing underage alcohol use and are designed especially for fifth- and sixth-grade students, their families, and their teachers.
  • The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: What it Means to You— A Guide to Action for Educators.
  • A helpful factsheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines six strategies and lists specific actions that educators can take to make students feel more supported and connected at school.

For Parents

  • In a poll by the American Medical Association,1 in 10 parents said that it was okay for teens to have alcohol available at parties with a parent present. This surprising statistic means it’s important to share researched-based information with parents in your community about the harmful and legal consequences of providing alcohol to youth.
  • While most parents do not allow their underage children to drink and would not buy alcohol for their student or allow it at a post event party such as Homecoming, some will. Here’s a guide for parents to help keep their student alcohol free at parties during the school year.
  • Underage Drinking: Myths vs. Fact Brochure is a good conversation-starter for parents and their students. It sheds light on common myths that teens and preteens may hold about alcohol use among youth and the effects of alcohol on their bodies and brains. Includes a resource guide.

For Students

  • Kids and Alcohol provides information for youth who want to know more about alcohol. They’ll find out why they shouldn’t drink, what causes youth to drink, and what to do if they’re concerned about a friend who’s drinking.
  • The NIDA for Teens Web site was created by The National Institute on Drug Abuse to educate students ages 11 through 15 (as well as their parents and teachers) on the science behind drug abuse. NIDA reached out to teens to help develop the site to make sure that the changing content addresses their questions and concerns. The site includes real stories, videos, downloads, and activities.
  • The Cool Spot is the place for young teens for information on alcohol and resisting peer pressure. What’s on this site? A reality check: How much drinking is really going on? Games, quizzes, facts, and more.
  • Too Smart To Start is geared toward preventing underage alcohol use in fifth- and sixth-grade students. The site includes quizzes, facts, homework help, advice, games, and free-cards.
  • The Underage Drinking: Myths vs. Fact brochure sheds light on common myths that teens and preteens may hold about alcohol use among youth and the effects of alcohol on their bodies and brains. Includes a resource guide and more.
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