NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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National Drug Facts Week

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Ignite Change in Your Community

Change begins with just one small step. At NIDA, we are working to shatter the myths that some people believe about drug abuse and addiction. And we’re spreading the facts to help people make informed, healthy decisions. Did you know?:

  • Drugs mess with your brain’s wiring and signals.
  • Marijuana can be addictive.
  • Most people who start smoking in their teens become regular smokers before they’re 18.
  • Prescription drug abuse is drug abuse.
  • There is treatment—and it works.

NIDA wants your help to spread these facts! For the second annual National Drug Facts Week (October 31 through November 6, 2011), teens, parents, teachers, and others are planning events to help change their communities and to spread the word about drugs and your health. Last year’s first-ever National Drug Facts Week was a huge success, with events held in 24 states! We encourage you to take the first step and ignite change by talking with a school counselor or teacher about organizing an event where you live. Here are some suggestions about how to put your ideas into action:

Poster Campaign

Paint the town in drug facts posters! Everywhere there is a poster, you will be spreading the facts about drug abuse. First, find out if you need permission to put up posters in your community. Use the Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths booklet as inspiration for your poster.

Sidewalk Art

Hold a contest for teen artists. Ask them to use chalk to write one drug Q & A from the Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths booklet on a city sidewalk, using artistic, cool designs that represent the question or their response to it. Pick a panel of judges, including maybe the mayor or a local celeb if they are available.

Facebook Scavenger Hunt

Scatter clues around your school or community. Offer some drug-related trivia questions online on Facebook or verbally in school. You can reward correct answers by giving out tips on how to find the next clue. Whoever gets to the finish line first wins a prize (you can decide the prizes). Get trivia facts from the NIDA Web site, the NIDA for Teens Web site, or the Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths booklet. Ask a local business or restaurant if they are willing to donate a gift card as a prize.

School Assembly

Every community has its inspiring members. Some may work with people in recovery from drug addiction, or are in recovery themselves and would love to talk with teens about their experiences. Plan a school assembly for them to share their stories—and pair them with an expert to answer teens’ questions. Get other activity ideas by visiting the National Drug Facts Week Web site and the Shoutout page. How are you going to start to ignite change in your community? What are your event ideas? Take that first step…

Teen pledging during National Drug Facts Week

Have Questions About Drug Abuse and Addiction? NIDA Has Answers

As part of National Drug Facts Week, NIDA scientists host Drug Facts Chat Day, an all-day online chat. On Chat Day, students and teachers from high schools across the U.S. submit questions about drug abuse and addiction to NIDA scientists, who answer them in real time.

Chat Day creates a safe environment where students can anonymously ask questions about drugs that they may feel uncomfortable asking their teachers or parents. NIDA scientists are leaders in the science of drug addiction and can answer complicated questions that many Web sites and textbooks do not—like, “Is addiction genetic?” “How can I help a friend stop using drugs?” and “Why is it so hard to quit using drugs once you are addicted?”

Anyone can watch the 2013 Chat Day online, on January 31 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, by simply registering for the chat.

Even if you can’t participate in the live chat, you can still get answers to your questions. Submit questions to the Sara Bellum Blog at Or, comment on this post and tell us your questions about drug abuse. You may see your question answered in a future SBB post.

Looking for answers today? Check out 2012 Chat Day’s questions and answers and the “Real Questions” section of the NIDA for Teens site.

Want the inside story on how Chat Day works? Check out this video.

Girl asking questions

Association of Women in Forensic Science

The idea for me hosting the event for the National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) came from my career as a forensic chemist—that is someone who examines drugs and chemical evidence related to crimes. In my job, I have direct contact with analyzing controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illicit and diverted drugs.

I am also a training coordinator. One of my duties in this role is to interact with high school students, but I noticed a lot of them use street slang terms for drugs and are misinformed about drugs of abuse.

Since I’ve ordered publications from NIDA in the past to assist with my drug education program, I was on the Web site recently and noticed National Drug Facts Week: Shatter the Myths advertised there. I was immediately intrigued by this initiative because I have been analyzing drugs for 10 years, I love what I do, and I express that by giving back to the community and sharing my knowledge about forensic science and drug education.

The first NDFW event held in Philadelphia will be at the recreation center in the community that I grew up in. The planning process required me to reach out to various businesses, schools, community centers, and radio stations. So far I’ve been a little discouraged because not everyone will support your cause, but what motivates me is my passion for what I do. I'm also motivated by this quote: “My hunger for success is fueled by my passion." :-)

So, if you are a teen and live near the area, you’re more than welcome to participate!

Antoinette T. Thwaites is a Laboratory Program Scientist and a founder of the Association of Women in Forensic Science. She also serves as a training coordinator for the Philadelphia Police Department/Forensic Science Center.

Association of Women in Forensic Science Logo

National Drug Facts Week: Sara’s Friends Shout Out Drug Facts

See our shoutouts: Bloggers | Tweeters | Facebook Posts Today, October 28, marks the second annual CyberShoutout! This is a day for teens to come together with teachers, parents, community organizations, and scientists to shatter myths about drug abuse and addiction and spread the facts by blogging, tweeting, or posting on Facebook. People all over the country are helping to raise awareness about drugs and drug abuse. Throughout the day, we will be showcasing some of Sara’s friends who are spreading the facts and shattering the myths. Thanks again to everyone who is participating! Let your voice be heard! Keep those shout-outs coming all day today, and be sure to watch the Sara Bellum Blog for updates. Bloggers:

  • Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA, is featured on the Partnership at giving a shoutout to the importance of engaging the American teenager around the facts of drug abuse.
  • Sue Scheff, author and parent advocate who founded Parents Universal Resource Expert (PURE), says What path will your teen choose? National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) is a health observance week for teens that aims to shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse. Through community--based events and activities on the Web, on TV, and through contests, NIDA is working to encourage teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse.
  • Sue Scheff gave a second shoutout in her post "It's Not Just Pot Anymore," in which she shares the facts behind marijuana use.
  • Jack Maypole, pediatrician and writer, posted this in a story, Deserving of Your Attention: Teens Abuse of ADHD Meds on newly minted college students issues with prescription drugs on The Faster Times blog: I’m covering this topic on the occasion of the opening of NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week to raise awareness — for teens and the adults in their lives — of something about which there are a lot of myths: prescription drug abuse, including ADHD meds.
  • The Dana Foundation is participating in today’s CyberShoutout for the second straight year and shattering myths about drug abuse by interviewing Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Bertha K. Madras, Ph.D., professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School in their post Drug Facts Week Interview: Bertha Madras.
  • The MomtiniLounge, a mommy blogger who also participated last year, says: Today, I’m joining teens, parents, teachers, and scientists across America to kick off National Drug Facts Week by publishing my own shoutout for educating teens about the effects of drug abuse" in her post Shoutout to Educate Teens About Drug Abuse.
  • The Ultimate Block Party, in its post Everyday ways to promote healthy development – now and later!, asks: Want to do something for your kids that helps promote healthy physical, cognitive, and social development? What if I told you that this activity also helps prevent substance abuse later on? With all these positive effects, you might think that I am talking about something difficult or expensive, but all you need to do is eat together as a family!
  • Ryan Donnelly, a recoving drug addict and alcoholic, says: Today, I’m giving a shoutout to educate teens about drug abuse. Monday is the start of the second annual National Drug Facts Week, and I’m adding my voice to spread a powerful message about drug abuse and addiction. Please take some time today to read more on this topic. Visit NIDA’s Sara Bellum Blog and get educated! RESPECT!
  • The NIH Science Education blog [post removed] is also joining teens, parents, teachers, and scientists across America to kick off National Drug Facts Week by offering up their own shoutout for educating teens about drug abuse.
  • Lisa Frederiksen of Breaking the Cycles says in her shoutout: One of the key risk factors for a person developing a drug abuse/drug addiction is early use — using drugs while their brains are going through the critical developmental stages that occur ages 12-25.
  • Dirk Hanson, science reporter and novelist, says: Addiction Inbox is pleased to join the CyberShout again this year, because cigarette smoking among 12th graders reached it’s lowest point in history in 2010—and also because, in the same year, about 10% of high school seniors reported abusing Vicodin. Good things are happening, more truth is being told—but there is a lot of hard work yet to do.
  • Barbara of Recovery Happens shares her story as a mother of a drug addict: Here is my message to both parents and teens based on my personal experience being the mother of a very intelligent, kind, funny and good looking young man who got addicted to heroin when he was 17 years old.
  • LaDonna Coy shares ways to use social media to support drug use prevention in her post, CyberShoutout - Applying Social Media Technology in Prevention, by listing activities you can do both online and offline.
  • Bill Ford from DadOnFire says: Drug abuse can turn into drug addiction and moms and dads need to know they are often the last ones to know. Yes, I am on fire. I have children and have known many young people who have suffered needlessly.
  • Phoenix House, a nonprofit provider of drug abuse treatment and prevention services, announced: This morning, singer/songwriter Kara DioGuardi, the creator of our Phoenix Rising Music Program, made this year’s kickoff especially memorable. Appearing on Fox & Friends, Kara announced that two talented teens from our Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles had won the MusiCares/GRAMMY Foundation’s Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest.
  • "The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Joins NIDA in Celebrating National Drug Facts Week 2011:" As reflected in the 2011 National Drug ControlStrategy, a key ingredient for preventing drug use is ensuring that communities, parents, and especially our youth, have the most up-to-date scientific information about drug use and its consequences. National Drug Facts Week provides young adults with science-based facts and information about drug and alcohol use, and empowers them to make healthy decisions as informed consumers.
  • The team at GovLoop is supporting the cause: NIDA is running a pretty cool program today to shatter myths about Drug Abuse to gear up for next week's National Drug Facts Week program. Much props to NIDA for a cool program.
  • AwareRx shouts out this drug fact: Nearly 15% of all US high school students misuse prescription controlled substance drugs.
  • The Indiana Prevention Resource Center promoted NIDA's online resources that help teens plan their own National Drug Fact Week events.
  • Lisa Killam-Worrall, Pharm.D., director of the Drug Information Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, reminds us that: “Prescription drugs can be safe when they are taken by the patient whom they are prescribed for. Danger incurs when people decide to take someone else’s medication without knowing what it is, the dosage amount or the side effects associated with it.”
  • Find Youth Info says: Teens have many questions about drugs and drug abuse. Without a reliable source for answers, they turn to the Internet, TV, friends, and pop culture—where the answers they get might be fictional or dishonest. Moreover, when it comes to drugs and drug abuse, misinformation can have serious consequences.
  • [post removed] shouts out from across the pond in Liverpool, England: While the above messages may originate from the United States, they apply to all people, of all cultures, all over the world!!! Let’s shout about it together.


  Facebook Users:

Person shouting through speakerfone in computer

National Drug Facts Week Starts Today!

This week begins NIDA’s annual National Drug Facts Week. Around the country, more than 500 schools and community groups will hold events to talk with teens about drugs—focusing on the facts.

We at NIDA have studied the science behind drug abuse and addiction for nearly 40 years, and one thing we know for certain: A lot of myths are out there about different kinds of drugs. Some of these myths are spread by the media, movies, and popular music, or by friends who have simply heard the wrong information. We want teens to know the scientific facts so they can make healthy choices about their lives.

To find out if an event is planned near you, visit the National Drug Facts Week Web site, and then click on the USA map. Please take a minute to explore the site and see what the week is all about.

Teens participating in a National Drug Facts Week event

Teens from schools in the Washington, DC, area gather around music star Mario at a National Drug Facts Week event sponsored by the Mentor Foundation (2011).

Group of teens at a National Drug Facts Week event

First Get Drug Smart, Then Think Twice

The Shoutout is gathering volume and the message is coming through loud and clear: JUST THINK TWICE!

  • Myth: If I smoke cigarettes now and then, I won’t get addicted.
    • Think twice: Each puff of a cigarette gives a smoker about 1 to 2 milligrams of nicotine. Although that may not seem like much, it is enough to make someone addicted. Learn more.
  • Myth: Huffing – like sniffing Sharpies or household cleaners – really doesn’t do anything bad; just gives me a quick high.
    • Think twice: In the short term, these chemicals can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, bad mood swings, and headaches. In the long term, toxic fumes can take the place of oxygen in the blood, which can damage your brain and other organs. Learn more.
  • Myth: Prescription drugs can’t be dangerous if a doctor prescribes them.
    • Think twice ADHD medications like Adderall can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, psychosis, and seizures if they’re abused; pain medications like Vicodin can cause respiratory depression and arrest, and even death, particularly when combined with alcohol. Learn more.
Two male students looking at a laptop.

Throughout the day on November 8, watch our Sara Bellum Blog, where we will showcase as many shoutouts as we find. Follow us on Twitter (#drugfacts2010) and check out NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week Facebook page. On November 9, check out Chat Day as we shout it out for teens everywhere – First, get the facts on drugs. Then choose health.



Student looking at computer

What's the Buzz About National Drug Facts Week?

This year, hundreds of events are going on across the country to shatter the myths about drug abuse and addiction during the second annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), which is October 31 to November 6, 2011.

Below are some highlights of just a few cool events planned around the United States. Meanwhile, see what might be happening near you.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, an organization called is holding a run event in a baseball field called “Run Drugs Out of Town.” The run, which includes players from the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, is for kids of all ages, (so far, participants range in age from 19 months to 80 years).

In Golden, Colorado, the Parent-Teacher Association is sponsoring a poster contest and a raffle giving away an iTunes gift card and iPod. Students who take the National Drug IQ Challenge and submit their test will get a ticket to be entered to win.

On Halloween in Dover, Delaware, the community is sponsoring a teen-created video campaign, with video stories about how drugs have influenced the community. Teens are asked how social media could have caused an increase in drug use, and whether teen violence is escalating as a result of increased exposure to drugs. The purpose of the campaign is to involve teens in efforts to raise awareness and in social programs to promote prevention.

Dearborn, Michigan, is hosting a virtual international conference, planned and hosted by the state student advisory board of 13 high school student leaders who train peers in youth-led prevention. The conference is expected to draw 300 attendees from 50 Michigan high schools.

Kearsage Regional High School in North Sutton, New Hampshire, is sponsoring a week-long poster contest, incorporating information from the National Drug IQ Challenge. Schoolwide participation in the challenge will be followed by discussions that a school advisor will help facilitate. Winners are entered in a raffle to win cool prizes.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Sanderson High Schools has invited a neurologist from Duke University and representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to share stories. Scheduled classroom visits include a talk from a person in recovery from drug addiction who used to be homeless.

Myra’s Place in Collingdale, Pennsylvania, has invited a “mad scientist” to present drug facts before a free concert with free food and drink and a moon bounce, in collaboration with the Bridgeway Recovery School and the Lighthouse Network.

The Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol and the University of Texas Center for Addiction Research will hold events in several schools in Galveston, Texas, throughout NDFW. The event will be adapted for each school, but will include sidewalk chalk art contests and electronic media-style poster contests.

In Laramie, Wyoming, the WyoCARE/Wyoming Indian High School on the Wind River Indian Reservation plans to include drug facts as part of their drug and tobacco education curriculum, and “shout out” drug facts during morning announcements every day. After taking the National Drug IQ Challenge, winners will receive University of Wyoming clothes and accessories.

That’s just a taste of the buzz that’s building around NDFW. If you don’t see an event going on near you, think about creating one next year. And tell us: How would you give your friends and classmates a heads-up about drugs and addiction?

Map of National Drug Facts Week 2011 events

YOU Are the Voice of Your Generation…

…Which is a pretty powerful thing, when you think about it.

At Mentor Foundation USA, we encourage teens to use their voices.

This is why, every year, we join forces with NIDA during National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) to host National Drug Facts Day. At this special event, we invite youth to engage with top U.S. scientists and guests to shatter the myths about drugs and substance abuse. We give youth the opportunity to ask all of their questions about substance abuse, openly and without fear of judgment, and get answers from experts in the field.

Special guests also speak about their experiences. Last year, R&B singer Mario Barrett spoke about his struggles growing up with a mother who had a heroin addiction. This year, Dr. Lonise Bias joins us to speak about the loss of her son Len Bias, who died of an overdose just after being drafted into the NBA.

Throughout NDFW and National Drug Facts Day, the focus is on teens like you! We want to ensure that participants go away with enough knowledge to feel empowered to make responsible choices. This is why YOUR voice matters! We believe that if you have good information, you have the power to make healthy decisions.

Speaker at  Mentor's National Drug Facts Week even 2011.National Drug Facts Day is just one of many events being held nationwide for National Drug Facts Week. Find and participate in an event near you.

Michaela Pratt is the Marketing & Project Manager for Mentor Foundation USA, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce risk factors and increase opportunities for youth. Through its programming, the organization works with the business community and other organizations to connect youth with the professional world. Structured mentoring programs, 1-day career opportunities, and community workshops help to motivate youth toward higher achievement and healthy lifestyles.

Teens participating in Mentor's National Drug Facts Week event

Help Shatter the Myths: What Will You Shoutout?

Today is the official start of National Drug Facts Week! All over the country, teens are coming together with scientists, parents, teachers, and community organizations to learn the facts about drugs and addiction.

In Philadelphia, Women in Forensic Science is holding an event about the link between drugs and crime. In Laramie, Wyoming, students at Wyoming Indian High School plan to take part in a chat with an addiction expert, then travel 4 hours to the Wind River Indian Reservation where they will explore the consequences of drug use by writing or drawing on a canvas tipis about what they would miss out on if they were using drugs.

You can get involved in a matter of minutes, online! Give us a shoutout here on this blog or in your own blog, or on Twitter or Facebook.  Shatter the myths out there about and shout it out about drugs and addiction!  Tag your shoutout so we can find it, and check this blog throughout the day for a showcase of your shoutouts.  See for more information and sample facts to post!


Office of National Drug Control Policy

"Giving teens accurate scientific information they understand will empower them to think critically about drug use and its consequences; enabling them to make smart, healthy, and responsible decisions."

Armed With Science

"As we all know, there is a growing awareness that military personnel, veterans and their families need help confronting a variety of war related problems, including substance abuse. Tobacco use, for example, is about 50 percent higher among the Nation’s active duty military personnel and veterans than in the civilian population."


Partnership for a Drugfree America

"Mark your calendars! Next week is National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a week-long health observance week held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for teens that aims to shatter the myths about drug and alcohol abuse."

PLoS Neuroanthropology

"This week is National Drug Facts Week, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As someone who has spent a long time working with teens and substance use and abuse, I’m happy to take part!"


"The organization has a NIDA for Teens site, covering the science behind drug abuse, and a blog called Sara Bellum (cute). There's also a Drug Facts Week web site and a Facebook page. NIDA is on Twitter at @NIDANews (using hashtag #drugfacts2010 for this week)."

The #neuroscience Daily MomTini Lounge

"I’m shouting out because in 2009, nearly 1 out of 10 high school seniors were still abusing prescription pain pills… unintentional overdoses involving pain medicines have more than tripled in the past 10 years, outnumbering total deaths involving heroin and cocaine."

Ziggy's Blog

"November 8-14 is National Drug Facts Week, and as a parent of a tween/teen, I know you want to be able to talk to your teen about  drugs and know the facts...not just facts, but the correct facts.  So I’m joining teens, parents, teachers, and scientists across America to kick off National Drug Facts Week by offering up my own shoutout for educating teens about drug abuse."

Social Media Technology in Prevention

"Armed with the best of science we can all do better at protecting our health and that of our kids."

Addiction Recovery Basics

"Add your voice today and post your own drug abuse shoutout on your blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account—or wherever you see fit. When you choose to speak, you choose to act."

Reclaiming Futures

"Here at Reclaiming Futures, of course, we're especially concerned about adolescent substance abuse among teens in the juvenile justice system."

Center on Media and Child Health

"According to NIDA's 2009 Monitoring the Future Survey (High School and Youth Trends), cigarette smoking is at its lowest among students in grades 8, 10, and 12. On the other hand, Marijuana use rates have remained steady  and non-medical use of Vicodin and Oxycodin increased in the past 5 years."

Dana Foundation

"Young people are far more likely to use and to become dependent on alcohol and tobacco than the more illicit drugs (though purchasing all of these is illegal for teenagers)."

Scientopia: Drugmonkey Wordswork

"This week, you have the opportunity to get smart about what drugs might do, before you act. Learn the facts about drugs and addiction, then think twice."

Organized Wisdom IQ Solutions

"We proudly join teens and adults everywhere rallying together on Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs to shatter the myths and spread the facts when it comes to drug abuse and addiction. Won’t you join us?"

SHOUTOUTS ON TWITTER: @NIDANews @ONDCP @HealthFinder @IQSolutions @TheHelpline @MomTiniLounge @WomenInForensic @SocialBttrfly @DCoffBeatArtist @A3Addiction @Coyenator @CMCH_Boston @Care_Aware

Teens shouting out

Ask the Experts: Today Is Drug Facts Chat Day

Today is NIDA’s fifth annual Drug Facts Chat Day. Students and teachers in classrooms across the United States have the unique opportunity to submit questions to the Nation's top experts in the field of drug abuse and addiction. As part of this second annual National Drug Facts Week, today’s chat will help shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse. NIDA’s experts will answer as many questions as they can. During the 2010 Chat Day, they answered more than 1,500 questions—including questions about the consequences of drug use, prescription drug abuse, and specific drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and inhalants. Anyone can watch the 2011 live chat beginning today at 8 a.m. EST. However, only schools that have completed advanced registration and received an access code may submit questions. If your school isn’t registered and you want to ask a question anonymously, ask it below in the comments (just make sure to create a username that doesn’t identify you), and we may select it for future blog posts for SBB’s “Real Teens Ask” category. Scientists on laptops

Take the National Drug IQ Challenge

National Drug Facts Week is in full swing! Have you looked up any facts? As a scientist, I love studying data and reading about real facts that have been tested by credible science. Some facts might surprise you.

For example, did you know that:

  • if you begin smoking marijuana as a teen, it could lower your IQ?
  • more people die from painkiller overdoses in the country every year than from heroin and cocaine combined?
  • fewer kids are smoking cigarettes these days?

What kinds of drug facts interest you? I recommend you try three things.

  1. Check out our NIDA for Teens Web site at
  2. If your school has not signed up for National Drug Facts Day, watch our chat with NIDA scientists tomorrow, January 31, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
  3. Take the interactive 2013 National Drug IQ Challenge to see what you know about drugs!

Stay smart by taking some time to research the facts about drugs.

National Drug IQ Challenge

Music in a Drug Free State of Mind

SBB has the scoop on the lucky teens who have won the the MusiCares and GRAMMY Foundation Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest---their prize includes a trip to Los Angeles to attend a GRAMMY rehearsal backstage! You might remember from a recent blog that the contest is part of NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week. We asked teens ages 14-18 to compose or create an original song and/or music video that “explores, encourages, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle or accurately depicts a story about drug abuse.

The three winners focused on personal experience living around drugs, and told their stories through original music and lyrics.

First prize went to the songwriting team of Daevion Caves, an 18-year-old high school junior, and Jordan Atkins, a 16-year-old sophomore, both students at Alton high School in Alton, Illinois. Their music video, “Drug Free State of Mind,” shows them living daily around drug use but having the courage to stay drug-free: “We all Shootin’ Stars, patiently waiting to be seen…remember what you do, you got the power to… determine your future.”  

Watch Video Here: “Drug Free State of Mind" by Daevion Caves and Jordan Atkins

Second place went to Markiest “Ghost” Jones, a 15-year-old 10th grader from Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida. His musical composition, “A Clearer View,” is a rap song he described as a cautionary tale about what happens when you decide to take drugs: “Do better than addicted/Make love the true prescription/Hope is all you gonna need/So believe you can achieve.”

Listen here: "A Clearer View" by Markeist "Ghost" Jones (MP3, 3.6MB)

(View Transcript)

Third place went to Vera Marquardt, a 17-year-old in recovery at the Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles, California. Raised in Hawaii, Vera strums a ukulele to accompany the story of her journey that she calls “Take it to the Days.” Her lyrics include these words: “Take it to the Days When I didn’t have to Depend/the easy way out has slowed me down… but I lift off the ground.”

Listen here: "Take it to the Days" by Vera Marquardt (MP3, 3.1MB)

(View Transcript)

The winners will be given star treatment at the 53rd GRAMMY awards. But more important, they are living proof that you can pursue your dreams without getting distracted by drugs.

Interested in watching and hearing the winning entries? Go to:

If you are having trouble listening to the audio files you may need to download the free Windows Media Player

Using the Internet To Learn the Science About Drugs

The Internet is teeming with blogs about everything from food to shopping to high-tech gadgets. Anyone and everyone can start a blog, and while many bloggers try their hardest to get the facts right, mistakes do happen. When considering a post about a new fashion trend, that may seem harmless; but what about blogs that include information about prescription drug abuse or the effects of inhalants? In that case, wrong information can be dangerous—even deadly.

NIDA works hard to give teens accurate and reliable information on the Internet and encourages teens to ask questions about drugs and drug abuse. NIDA even sponsors a major Internet-based event every year called Drug Facts Chat Day where high school students from around the country can ask questions directly to NIDA experts.

Also, you can always ask questions here, in the SBB comments. Recently, SBB received a bunch of interesting new comments on last year’s post about NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week, “Get the Download on Drugs: Help Us Shatter the Myths.” Apparently, a teacher assigned students to read this blog post to help them answer particular questions.

Here are some sample comments (we didn’t edit these at all):



Question 5 - The best way to get the message out to teens is on TV because not all teens have a computer or an account, but most teens have a TV and watch it all the time at home. You can have a TV show where the they dedicate an episode to not doing stuff like, smoking and drinking!!


@muellerperiod5: Question 4- If an athlete uses steroids to improve they’re performance, I do think that is cheating. Because, they would be stronger than everyone else, it just wouldn’t be fair, that person could hurt others, and they would make the people who aren’t on steroids feel bad because they wouldn’t be doing as well as the person who is. Using steroids, or any other type of drug, comes with consequences. I think that the athlete who is using steroids should be kicked off the team as their consequence. I bet someone who doesn’t use steroids would do even better than the person who is.

Question 5 - I think Social Networks would be the best way to get the message out to teens. I think that because, most kids are on Facebook and Myspace and Twitter or just on the computer. Most teens wouldn’t pay attention to adults when they say drugs are bad, but since it’s on Facebook or Twitter, they would be more likely to pay attention.


SBB is proud to provide this science-based blog (and resource!) for teens.

So, how can you tell if the Web sites you visit offer reliable information? To answer the questions, you can either write your response in the “Leave a Reply” box below, or send us a message. We read all of your comments and feedback.

Teens looking at a computer

During National Drug Facts Week: The Truth About Prescription Drugs

Did you know that prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are the most commonly abused substances by high school seniors (after marijuana and alcohol)? Some medications have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties and, because of that, are sometimes abused—taken for reasons or in ways not intended by a doctor, or taken by someone with no prescription.

In all my years as a medical doctor and scientist who studies drug abuse, I have never met anyone who wanted to get addicted. Sometimes, addiction comes from a lack of knowledge. For example, people often think that prescription and OTC drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but that’s only true when they are taken exactly as prescribed and for the purpose intended. When abused, prescription and OTC drugs can be addictive and lead to other bad health effects, including overdose—especially when taken along with other drugs or alcohol.

You can help protect yourself from such risks by knowing the facts about drugs. Check out our NIDA for Teens site to learn more and see what’s happening now during National Drug Facts Week.

We have a cool infographic on Monitoring the Future stats—Check it out.

Chart of Past-Year Teen Drug Abuse

NDFW Wrap Up

First off, big thanks to teens and adults everywhere who took the time during NIDA’s first-ever National Drug Facts Week to learn new facts about drug abuse.

After a week full of activities around the country, what can teens take away?

At the center of the week was our annual “Chat Day,” which gave high school students around the country a chance to ask NIDA scientists their questions directly…we got more than 5,000! Here’s a sample?

Q: Does genetics play a big role in addiction? 
A: That’s a sophisticated question….I sense future scientists. Research suggests that about 50-60% of the risk for drug addiction is due to your genes, and that about 40% is due to environmental influences (like access to drugs, media influences, drug use among friends).Scientists are now starting to identify some of the exact genes that cause this influence. That is giving them clues to how to develop new medications to help addicted people recover.

Of course, no matter what your genes are, you won't get addicted if you just don't take drugs.

Q. Does every teen take drugs? 
A. You might think so from watching tv and movies, but you would be wrong. Most teens do NOT take drugs. In 2009, little more than a third of 12th graders reported using an illegal drug in the past year, mainly marijuana. Fewer 10th graders and even fewer 8th graders reported using an illegal drug. It’s a good question you ask, because many teens tend to want to do what other teens do, and if they think everyone else is using, that might influence them to use. That would be making two mistakes.

Q: How can prescription drugs be fatal to us?
A. Pretty much by how they can affect blood flow in your body (like blood vessels getting narrower), or how the brain tells the heart to beat and the lungs to expand and contract. Several medications are ”depressants,” and combined with other drugs, especially alcohol, can shut down that breathing machinery. That’s why these kinds of drugs have warning labels. The key is to only use prescription medications under the care and direction of your doctor. They can be life-saving that way. The problems come when you abuse them or take someone else's prescription.

Q: How does marijuana get you high specifically
A. The exact nature of what ”high” is still up in the air, but here is some of what we know. The active ingredient in marijuana is THC, which causes cellular reactions in the brain that ultimately lead to the high that users get. THC acts on what are called “cannabinoid receptors,” found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thoughts, concentration, time perception, and coordinated movement. This is why some 'weed' smokers experience problems with memory, concentration, and coordination. And some marijuana users, about 9%, get addicted.

Know the Facts, Think before You Act!

Teens and adult sponsors organized events to shatter drug myths from California to Florida to Maine and everywhere in between. At Rockville High School, in Rockville, Maryland, teens produced this public service announcement advertising National Drug Facts Chat Day.

Other events included the following:

  • The Boys and Girls Club’s family advocacy network in Sulphur Springs, Texas, hosted a symposium for parents, caregivers, and youth of all ages, giving them the chance to ask questions about drugs.
  • YOUth CARES of El Cajon Valley, California, shared drug facts during morning announcements for middle and high school kids and sponsored a carnival for middle school, high school, and college students. One review called “a great event,” adding that it was “encouraging to see so many teenagers taking action against substance use, and promoting health and fun!”
  • NIDA held a CyberShoutout to kick off National Drug Facts Week. All over the country, people blogged, tweeted, and posted to Facebook in support of “shattering the myths” about drug abuse and addiction. Click here to see what people had to say!

This first-ever Drug Facts Week couldn’t have been such a success without your help! But we’ve only just begun: watch this blog for more facts, games, and quizzes to get the drug facts.

Teens at a game show.

CyberShoutout 2011

The bloggers below have shown their support for NIDA’s 2011 CyberShoutout, the kick-off to National Drug Facts Week. Sara Bellum would like to thank everybody that helped to shatter myths about drug abuse and addiction by spreading the facts. If you’d like to see what these bloggers had to say, just click the post title next to their blogs.*

View CyberShoutout 2010 participants.

Drug Abuse and Addiction Blogs:

Parenting Blogs:

Health and Science Blogs:

Government Blogs:

Other Blogs:

*Disclaimer: These are links to external blogs and/or organizations that have supported the Sara Bellum blog. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a part of the U.S. Government, and does not endorse or favor any specific commercial product or company or its content.

Teen Songwriters Honored for National Drug Facts Week

As part of NIDA’s 2013 National Drug Facts Week, the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares selected five teens as winners of the “Teens! Make Music Contest.” Songs highlighted the dangers of drug abuse and addiction as well as the importance of making healthy choices. The Partnership at also co-sponsored this year’s contest.

Vinny Cavalcanti and Nick Miller of Utah were selected first-place winners for their rap, "Psychological Cool Guy," that shows concern for a friend with a drug problem.

I've been meaning to talk to you about something for a while, about your problems with the syrup, and your problem with denial.

Second-place winners Colby Benson and Haley Michelle Kagimoto from Hawaii wrote “Change Who We’ll Become” about the pressure young people face and how to overcome the challenges.

There she goes again

She can’t run from the trouble she’s in

Her hope is running thin

She’s trying to cope with how her life has been.

Finally, in “Starting Over,” third-place winner Hannah Rand from Illinois expresses concern for a friend who uses drugs.

Don’t leave me standing here wondering if you’re okay

I don’t want to lose you this way

There’s nothing you can use that won’t end up using you

This will only hurt you in the end

So take my hand and start over again.

All the winners were given the opportunity to go backstage during a rehearsal for the 55th GRAMMY Awards show. The winners also received other cash prizes and the chance to record their music.

Listen to the winning songs and share in comments how they affect you.

Check out 2010 and 2011 contest winners.

And if you’re a songwriter or singer, watch for SBB posts about next year’s teen music contest and submit your song!

Teen playing a guitar

Plan an Event for the First-Ever National Drug Facts Week

Have any plans for the second week of November? We have an idea for something you can do with your friends at school--join in on NIDA’s first annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), November 8–14 and plan an event to shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse—and perform a service for your community at the same time.

National Drug Facts Week is about giving teens a forum to ask questions and get the facts about drugs and drug abuse from the experts who know—scientists who study the brain. No preachy messages. Just solid answers backed by science. Check out “National Drug Facts Week” on Facebook and see what may be going on near you. If you can’t find an event in your area, start one of your own.

Students talking around a desk.

All you need to do to get started is:

1. Come up with an event to host during NDFW.
2. Find an advisor to help out, along with an expert to answer questions.
3. Tell us about it by registering your event on our official NDFW event list.

If your community is in denial about the drug problems it has, your event can shine a light on the situation. Hosting an event is also a great thing to have on your résumé, and shows your commitment to an important issue facing young people today.

If you host an event, let us know. Yours could be one of those we will highlight right here on the Sara Bellum Blog.

NDFW logo

Getting in the Grammy Groove

MusiCares and GRAMMY Foundation Teen Substance Abuse, in collaboration with NIDA recently sponsored the Awareness through Music Contest for high school students to create and perform an original composition called the Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest. The first-place winners, Jordan Atkins and Dae’ Vion Caves, write here about what this experience means to them.

Hello fellow listeners and fans. This is Jordan Atkins and Dae’ Vion Caves. We would just like to share with you why we wrote this song. We give special thanks to God, first and foremost, but we received news about the contest through a counselor at our school. The counselor went to our manager/leader, Mrs. Wittman, of the group and from there we worked on the song and video.

It took a lot of dedication, since we had only two weeks before the deadline, but we were able to let that be a minor issue and finish the song and video with help from our friends that lived in the community.

We have a rap group at our school named "Alton High School’s 618," which consists of four members, but only two of us were able to compete in the competition, due to the rules.

The reason we wrote the lyrics is because we are trying to tell people to rise above their circumstances. We know, from our own family experiences that things can get rough at times, especially when you have no one to turn to.

We just want to let all of the fans, children, and even adults know that no matter how hard the struggle becomes, you can always follow your dreams. You shouldn’t let anyone get in the way of that!! We are just another two artists who are trying to make something happen with our lives, but when we come together as one, we can have the world on our side.

We thank everyone for all of the support and hope to come out in the industry so you can all enjoy our music. The feeling is unimaginable, although we want to stay humble. We have A LOT of support throughout our city, school, and friends. Along with us, our community is helping to raise funds so we can get our other two members to attend with us in February.

We thank our school, community, and fans for all of the support and once again, we hope we can get into the music industry so you all can hear our music. Thank You!!

GRAMMY Contest: Teens Sing Stories of Addiction

Three teens used music to turn the destruction of drug abuse and addiction into music and hope. The winners of the second annual MusiCares and GRAMMY Foundation's Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest featured compelling stories of addiction and recovery. Two entrants wrote their submissions while in treatment; a third wrote a song about how his sister’s addiction affected the whole family. Who Won? The 1st place winners were Harvie and Amanda, two teens currently in treatment at the Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles, CA. Their entry, an original song entitled "Like a Phoenix in the Air," chronicles their feelings about being teens in drug treatment and their desire to rise above their addictions “even with a broken wing.” The song ends with the lyrics "Cuz I may fall one hundred times before I sleep, but I promise you I'll get back up tomorrow." The 2nd place winner, Kevin Simmons, wrote “My Life” while at the Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations, a residential center in Spokane Valley, WA. Kevin told his story of addiction and recovery through powerful lyrics that included, “My life was over until I got sober, but I found another way to get through life.” The 3rd place winner is 14-year-old Grant Davis, a student at Silver State High School in Carson City, NV. In his entry, “Just a Child,” the young lyricist referenced his experience growing up in a family dominated by his older sister's struggle with addiction. He created a haunting but hopeful composition that included the lyrics, “You were not supposed to be in charge of the world created for me.” Composers of all three winning entries will have the opportunity to attend the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards Backstage Experience, a special backstage tour that includes watching artists rehearse for the live GRAMMY Awards show early in 2012. Also, the winners will have their musical entries posted on the GRAMMY 365 and MTV Web sites, as well as on the Above the Influence campaign site. They will each receive a small cash award from the Visions Adolescent Treatment Center in Malibu, CA, and a certificate from NIDA acknowledging their role in spreading the word about health about substance abuse. How Do You Cope? In a video essay, 2nd-place winner Kevin added, “Whenever I have a bad day I go to my room with a pencil and paper and write down how I feel.” What do you do to cope with stress, anxiety, or when you’re just feeling low? Tell us in the comments what works to help you through life’s rough patches. Visit NIDA’s Web site to listen to the winning songs. Read the official press release. National Drug Facts Week and Grammy Foundation Logos

Get the Download on Drugs: Help Us Shatter the Myths!

National Drug Facts Week is coming, and teens all over the country will be talking. To get the conversation started, NIDA has created a booklet, Drugs: Shatter the Myths, that separates fact from fiction about drug abuse and addiction. As you’ll notice, the ‘thought’ questions below also appear at the back of the booklet. We want your opinions—so join in the discussion by leaving us a comment. It can be about one of these ideas, or your own. 1. How do you convince a friend who is using drugs that they may be at risk for addiction or other bad consequences even though they feel fine right now? 2. Knowing what we do now, would you make cigarettes illegal if you could? 3. What is the best way to convince you or your friends that prescription drugs can be dangerous when abused— without scaring the people who need them? 4. Do you consider it cheating when athletes use steroids to improve their performance—what should the consequences be? 5. What’s the best way to get messages out to teens?
  • Social networks
  • TV ads
  • Web sites
6. Who should the messages be from? If we haven’t covered something you want to know more about, go to and enter your topic in the search box – and thanks for sharing!

National Drug Facts Week “Drug Awareness Pep Rally”—Success in Galveston County, Texas!

Drug awareness has been an important subject to me since I was a young girl. My parents taught me from a young age to stand up for what I believe in, no matter what. I have always felt that young adults are under a lot of pressure from friends and family to make good grades and smart decisions. Kids are always told what they should do with no explanations why, and I feel that if we educate children about the consequences of their actions, they might make a change.

My senior project at O’Connell College Preparatory High School was a “Drug Awareness Pep Rally” during National Drug Facts Week 2013, for which I teamed up with the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol in Galveston, Texas. I honestly was very nervous because I did not know if my fellow students would enjoy what I had planned. I set up tables with incentives and NIDA’s “Shatter the Myths” booklets so that the faculty and staff could grab whatever they wanted as they walked in. I asked for three volunteers from each class to represent their class for the “National Drug IQ Challenge”—a quiz about drug facts—that I made into a game show. I also recruited helpers to hand out the quizzes and throw mini basketballs into the crowd to pump everyone up.

The incentive to win the game show was a pizza party to the class that made the most points. All of the contestants were cheating off the students in the crowd, so I quickly made them flip around to the other side of the table. The game show format made a tough subject seem fun, and both the teachers and students benefited from the quiz.

The next part of the “Drug Awareness Pep Rally” was making posters with a witty statement that could be put up around the school, like “pot mayk you stoopid.” The classes were judged on their posters by creativity and penmanship. Surprisingly, every student really got into it and helped out. While posters were being made, basketballs and Frisbees were flying all over the gym, just like a pep rally before a football game. The teachers decided who had the best poster and that class also won a pizza party.

Afterwards, students and teachers told me how fun and informative my pep rally was. My goal was to make drug awareness fun for a school full of young adults, and it worked! I hope in the future that some other students will take on this project and help spread drug awareness throughout schools in our area and around the country. 

Emily Low, a senior at O'Connell High School, adopted National Drug Facts Week 2013 as her senior project and coordinated a pep rally against drugs and a poster contest. Z5HFBURU9V9M

Emily Low

Singing Out Against Drugs: ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT, Part 1

This is your chance to be a star. Enter the 2011 Teen Substance Abuse Awareness Through Music contest, hosted by the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares in collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Teens who submit an original song or music video promoting a healthy and drug-free lifestyle have a chance to win an invitation to Los Angeles to attend the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards rehearsal for a backstage experience and other awesome prizes. Visit NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week page for more information about the contest. SBB recently talked to Super Star (his legal name), who is a member of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT. He told us about his real-life experience with drug addiction (and even a few tips about being a rock star). This is a project he started with his twin brother Rock Star (also his legal name) to help others learn from his experience. What is the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT? I started the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT (RSSS) with my twin brother to increase awareness about addiction, celebrate recovery from it, and spread hope to those affected by it. Our mission is to get people talking about how substance use, affects teens and their families, and to involve them in important conversations about drug and alcohol abuse in homes and schools across America. My brother and I are showing people it is fun and cool to spread the facts about drugs and drug abuse. For middle schools and high schools, we host live Skype sessions and give a presentation called “Got Serenity?” We also released a music CD called Serenity, focused solely on beating addiction. On the CD, we worked with some of our own rock ‘n roll heroes who share our passion about sobriety. We published a book called The First 30 Days to Serenity, and we’ll be taking our Rockin’ Recovery Tour to cities across the United States during the month of September in honor of National Recovery Month. Why did you create RSSS? I fought drug addiction for 15 years. When I was 21, I remember getting high and swearing to myself that I would not go back for more drugs when they ran out, but I did. I remember thinking I probably had a problem, but I couldn’t stop. I tried to quit hundreds of times, but even a heroin overdose was not enough to stop me. My addiction cost me a lot: all of my friends left me and my family lost hope and stopped calling me. It wasn’t until I made the decision for myself that I finally stuck with it. Even after 3 years sober, the trail of devastation caused by my drug use has not been fixed, and I’m still working to get back the trust that I lost during my drug use. Getting sober was not easy, but by staying sober, I realize I can give people hope of overcoming dependence on drugs and alcohol and the despair that can come with it. Who is your greatest influence? Paul Stanley from Kiss. He made it to the top of his profession by choosing to stay away from all the substances that destroyed many of his peers. I respect him for encouraging others to stay on the right path, and I am proud that I can now call him my friend. What advice do you have for aspiring rock stars? Hold your ground. Believe in yourself, perfect your craft, and remember that the person you see in the mirror is the most valuable thing you have. The beauty that lies within us is what will allow each of us to achieve our dreams, whether it’s becoming a Rock Star or Super Star or something else! Finally, always love, always encourage, and never let despair get in the way! RSSS

Teens Help Shatter the Myths About Drugs

In communities across the country, students, teachers, and parents joined forces in NIDA’s second annual National Drug Facts Week from October 31 to November 6, 2011.

From Knoxville, Tennesee, to Siskiyou County in northern California, to La Plata, Maryland, teens gathered in school and neighborhood events to get real about drugs and addiction. In addition, teens from 71 schools from coast to coast participated in an online Drug Facts Chat Day event and submitted more than 10,000 questions to NIDA scientists.

Following are some examples of other events held around the country in honor of National Drug Facts Week.

Creating PSAs in Tennessee

In Knoxville, TN, the Metropolitan Drug Commission produced a series of public service announcements (PSAs) that Comcast Cable will air for free throughout the fall and winter.

Five teens posed questions to experts on camera to help shatter the myths about alcohol and other drugs. Topics were chosen based on the top five most commonly abused drugs in Knox County, where Knoxville is located. Those drugs are marijuana, alcohol, prescription drugs, tobacco, and inhalants. View the PSAs:

A Painted Bridge and Real-Life Stories in California

Little girl holding a poster about smoking.

Students from a leadership class at Mt. Shasta High School in Siskiyou County, CA, painted a “grafitti bridge” to honor those who had lost their lives to drug addiction. The goal of the project was to encourage teens to get the facts about drugs, tobacco, and alcohol by visiting the NIDA for Teens Web site.

In addition, a panel of speakers spoke to teens about how their lives were affected by drug addiction and the toll it took on themselves and their community. Leon, for example, crashed his pickup truck while driving drunk 6 years ago and was in a coma for 9 days. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him with speech, coordination, and memory deficits.

The Siskiyou County Office of Education and the local public health department also sponsored a poster contest entitled, “It's a Fact.” They received close to 500 student entries. A kindergartener from Butteville Elementary School, was one of 16 winners. In all, 800 posters were professionally printed and posted around the county.

Facing the Facts at Juvenile Drug Court in Maryland

The city of La Plata, MD, applied the messages of National Drug Facts Week in a completely different way.

A crowd of more than 50 family members came to witness as two teens “graduated” from Juvenile Drug Court and had their records cleared. The teens participated in therapy and counseling in an intervention program designed to offer treatment and a chance for a clean start for nonviolent offenders who are chronic drug users between age 14 and 17.

Invited speaker Stanley Goodall, a counselor who worked with both graduates, recalled the changes that the two teens experienced and how their lives are much different now than when he first met them. “We thought the young man would be a casualty,” Mr. Goodall said. But now, with a clear record and a strong sense of purpose, he intends to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

What ideas do you think would work to share the facts about drugs and addiction at your school or in your neighborhood? What would inspire you to host an event next year so that you can make a difference?

Read about more 2011 National Drug Facts Week events.

Bridge Painted for National Drug Facts Week

Go Backstage at the Grammys—Enter to Win

Want to celebrate healthy attitudes and lifestyles? Have something to say about drug use and abuse? NIDA, along with MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation, is sponsoring an exciting event called the Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest. SBB encourages readers to submit original song lyrics or music videos that reflect healthy choices. Three winners will have the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles and attend the 53rd annual GRAMMY Awards Backstage Experience during a GRAMMY rehearsal in January 2011! Plus, your song might end up on the GRAMMY web site for all major artists to see. Your musical story can be about many different things: maybe it will be about your own experience or that of a friend or family member who is struggling with substance abuse…your view of peer pressure, your approach to personal choices, etc. We know you have something to say---here’s your chance to say it with music! Who Is Eligible: Young people age 14 to 18 who want to help shatter the myths about drug abuse. What To Do: Compose or create an original song and/or music video that explores, encourages, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle or accurately depicts a story about drug abuse. Deadline for submission: October 15, 2010 Winners will be announced during NIDA’s first National Drug Facts Week, which begins on November 8, 2010. First, second, and third place winners will have their musical entries posted on the GRAMMY 365 and Think MTV Web sites, as well as on the Above the Influence campaign site. For details on how to enter and contest rules visit the contest Web site. Tell your friends! Find out more information about National Drug Facts Week. Grammy Foundation and MusiCares Logos

National Drug Facts Week is right around the corner….


My name is Yvonne Urbina and I’m an intern in NIDA’s Public Information and Liaison Branch. I attend New Mexico State University, and I’m thrilled to be here during such an exciting time. As you may already know, National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) is right around the corner—January 27 to February 2, 2014. Although we’ve been busy organizing this awesome event, I thought I would fill you in a little on how you can get involved!

National Drug Facts Week is an opportunity for teens to ask questions and get answers about drugs and drug abuse. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to visit the NDFW Web site to check out all the cool events that are going to take place all over the country.

Don’t see your city? No problem! Talk to your teachers, counselors, classmates, and friends about getting your city on the map. There’s still plenty of time to brainstorm ideas for an event, and getting involved is simple.

So tell us...why are YOU shattering the myths? Print this sign (PDF), fill it out, and share on Facebook and Twitter using #drugfacts. Stay tuned to Twitter and Facebook to see if we share your picture!

Yvonne Urbina

Singing Out Against Drugs: ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT, Part 2

We recently had a chance to talk with Super Star (his legal name) of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT (RSSS). He gave us some advice about becoming a rock star, but he also had some great information about shattering the myths around drugs and drug abuse. Check out part 2 of his interview.

Why is it important to shatter myths about drugs and drug abuse?

Knowing the facts about drugs is essential because drug abuse can kill you or the people you care about. And you don’t need to be addicted a long time for that to happen. Taking a pill, binging on alcohol, or ingesting cocaine just once can bring on horrible consequences, including death.

NIDA’s “Shatter the Myths” booklet states that nearly “1 in 11 people who use (marijuana) become addicted.” I was one of those people. When I was a teenager, I never thought smoking marijuana would lead me to crack cocaine. At the time, I thought, "It’s just weed—no big deal.” But after a while, smoking marijuana wasn’t enough for me, so I sought other drugs to chase the high feeling. I might have made different choices if I had known more about drugs and how they affect you.

We at ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT (RSSS) want to share the facts about substance use because there is so much misinformation out there. We believe that if people are informed, they can make better choices for themselves. The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is excited to support and promote National Drug Facts Week this year. If National Drug Facts Week was around when I was in high school, I might have asked, “Can you help me?”

How has your life changed since you stopped using drugs?

I’ve discovered my purpose in life after surviving an almost 15-year battle with the disease of addiction. Today, I’m a recording artist. My twin brother, Rock Star (also his real legal name), and I recorded Serenity, a first-of-its-kind CD focused solely on combating addiction. A Grammy-winning producer worked on the CD, along with many famous musicians who came together to help others through their own addiction struggles. Guests on our CD include current and former members of the bands Kiss, Heart, The Goo Goo Dolls, Dokken, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and many more.

What are RSSS’s Skype sessions?

The Skype sessions give the chance to participate and ask questions in a small group. I share part of my story as well as information from NIDA’s “Shatter the Myths” booklet with facts about drugs and drug abuse.

My main messages are:

1. Success is achieved by making responsible choices. Waking up every day and doing the right thing will always get you to the right place.

2. Everyone should believe in themselves, no matter what others think.

3. Sobriety is COOL!!

What advice can you give someone who wants to experiment with drugs?

I’d tell them to ask themselves if not ever having the chance to go home again is worth the risk. Is waking up in a jail cell worth the few minutes of escaping reality?

I would tell them to reach out to an adult or someone they trust and tell them about how they’re feeling. Ask for help, because not asking for help or support can lead to a life of misery or no life at all.

Always love, always encourage, and never let despair get in the way!

-Super Star

Photo of a crowd at a concert.
A hand holding a marijuana leaf.

With Science and Songs, Students Celebrate National Drug Facts Week

The second annual National Drug Facts Week was in full swing on November 2 at the House of Sweden at a hallmark event for NIDA’s 2011 health observance in Washington, DC.

More than 100 high school students from 7 schools in the District of Columbia and Baltimore, MD, attended the “Drug Facts Rally” headlined by NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., and Grammy-nominated R&B recording artist Mario Barrett. Other students participated in the event via Skype from the Baltimore Mayor’s office. Ask Anything Attendees had the unique opportunity to interact directly with Dr. Volkow, asking their most pressing questions about drugs and addiction during an energetic Q&A session. Dr. Volkow also answered two questions submitted from students in Sweden. (To read other questions from high school students and the answers direct from NIDA scientists, read NIDA’s 2011 Drug Facts Chat Day transcript.) After speaking with NIDA’s Director, the students broke into small group sessions to show off their knowledge in a Jeopardy-style trivia game with peer health educators from the George Washington University Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education. Using Music To Send a Message One of the day’s most memorable moments came when Mario Barrett took the stage. He surprised an attendee who had been invited to sing a few lines from one of his songs by joining her in the second verse. Originally from Baltimore, MD, Mario grew up with a mother who was addicted to drugs. He was exposed to violence, gangs, and drugs on a daily basis. Eventually, he rose to the top of the R&B charts with songs like “Just a Friend 2002” and “Let Me Love You.” With a goal of giving back, he uses his Mario Do Right Foundation to mentor and support the children of substance abusing parents. He strives to create a support system that he didn’t have for much of his childhood. T-Shirt Contest Winners Miss DC International, Dr. Allison Hill, a certified pharmacist, attended the event to help announce the winners of a t-shirt contest sponsored by international fashion retailer H&M and the Mentor Foundation USA. The contest challenged District of Columbia high school students to design a slogan to express what motivates them to stay drug free now and in the future. The following students, all from the César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy–Parkside, won the competition: 1st place: Damani Johnson 2nd Place: Temple Reed 3rd Place: Tina Starr Each attendee received a t-shirt featuring Damani Johnson’s winning slogan, which read: Front: I’M > DRUGS Back: I’M GREATER THAN DRUGS BREATHE IN COMMON SENSE, EXHALE IGNORANCE STAY POSITIVE, TEST NEGATIVE STAY DRUG FREE Besides the t-shirt and loads of facts about drug abuse and healthy choices, attendees also had the opportunity to take away photos of the event. Students also could visit a video booth to give a shoutout about why they are drug free and what they learned during the day to shatter the myths about drug abuse. Now we want to hear from you as well. Hit the comments below and tell us your personal slogan against drug abuse or give us a shoutout about why you’re drug free. Embassy of Sweden Event Partners Mario at National Drug Facts Week

Join the Great CyberShoutout to Kickoff National Drug Facts Week

National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) is a 5-day event that features teen-led activities, a cool contest sponsored by the Grammy Awards, and chats to shatter the myths around drug abuse and addiction. SBB and NIDA want you to help us spread the word through school and community events, both online and in person. Read on… NDFW kicks off on Monday, November 8, with the Sara Bellum CyberShoutout. We’ll be blogging here on the SBB and adding updates from you throughout the day. We need your support to make this good. Could you maybe:

  • Post a comment here on the Sara Bellum blog?
  • Write a new post for your own blog?
  • Post our new NDFW Web badge on your blog.
  • Upload event pictures to Flickr?
  • Post drug facts that we give you to your Facebook and/or Twitter account, or wherever you share updates and issues with friends and family?

Note: If you plan to blog or post something to your Facebook page for the CyberShoutout, let us know in the comments. If you’ll be tweeting, don’t forget to use the hashtag #drugfacts2010 so we can update Sara Bellum throughout that day with your ideas and thoughts. We hope you’ll take part in this CyberShoutout event – together, we can separate fact from fiction when it comes to drug abuse and addiction! Here are some facts to get you started:

  • The chances of becoming addicted to marijuana or any drug differ for everyone. For weed, that's about 1 in 11 people. Learn more.
  • In 2006, prescription pain medications were involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Learn more.
  • Drugs reset brain’s pleasure meter, making you feel hopeless & sad w/out drugs 'til normal fun stops making you happy. Learn more.

Get in on the action! Teens across the nation will be participating in NDFW through activities, participating in Drug Facts Chat Day, and leading events in their communities. How loud can you shout? Remember, no matter how or where you speak out, add the hashtag #drugfacts2010.

National Drug Facts Week Logo

Thunderclap! Amplify Our Voices for National Drug Facts Week

Today is the first day of National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) 2014. This is the week when NIDA aims to shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse. Communities across the country will host events throughout the week to educate teens about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction.

As part of NDFW, we encourage teens to test their knowledge on drug facts and addiction by taking the 2014 National Drug IQ Challenge. This interactive quiz is a great way for teens to get the factual answers to questions about drugs.

To get the word out, we’ve started a Thunderclap! A Thunderclap posts a message simultaneously to the Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts of everyone that signs up to receive it. That means that all of the accounts’ followers see the message. A Thunderclap can reach thousands of people at once—pretty powerful stuff!

Join our NDFW Thunderclap before Wednesday, January 29 at 1 p.m. EST and a message promoting the 2014 National Drug IQ Challenge will go out to all of your social media followers at that time. We need at least 250 supporters for our message to be shared.

Help us shatter the myths about drugs! Join the NDFW Thunderclap now.

National Drug Facts Week Logo

Let’s Talk: National Drug Facts Week

In November 2010, NIDA held its first-ever National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), where people around the U.S. worked with friends, family, and neighbors to plan events to dispel the myths and discuss the facts about drug abuse.

People got really creative with their events. The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America held a game show called “Think Fast” at its National Leadership Forum.

NDFW was so successful last year that NIDA has planned another: this year’s NDFW will be the week of October 31-November 6!

So, now, we want to know: Will you be participating in this year’s NDFW? Are you planning an event? What type of event would you like to attend?

To answer the questions, you can either write your response in the “Leave a Reply” box below, or send us a message. We read all of your comments and feedback.

Don’t forget that you can respond to questions we’ve asked before. As always, we look forward to hearing from you!

NIDA: National Drug Facts Week banner

Learning About Drugs From the Inside

My name is Sharlett, and I’m from Washington State. Recently, I completed an internship for NIDA in Washington, DC. I worked behind the scenes with the communications experts, which means I was involved with organizing and publicizing different cool events and publications that NIDA offers you.

One of my most interesting projects was helping to spread the word about National Drug Facts Week, which occurred last November. One of my biggest tasks was to promote the “National Drug IQ Challenge en Español”—to encourage teens, their parents, and friends to take the quiz and test their knowledge about drug abuse and addiction. This was the first year the Challenge was offered in Spanish, and everyone has been really excited about it.

I am thrilled I got to be a part of such a great organization. I was offered the chance to work for NIDA in late July, and I knew right away it was an awesome opportunity. Every day, I got to use what I learned in college to promote drug awareness and help teens stay safe. I think it is crucial to make facts about drugs easily available to teens to counteract all the myths that are floating around.

Before coming to NIDA, my knowledge about drugs and drug abuse was very limited. I knew that drugs harm the body and that they can lead to illness or even death. I knew that one of my favorite comedians, Chris Farley, died from a drug overdose in 1997. I began to form perceptions and beliefs about drug abuse, but my “drug IQ” was very basic. After working at NIDA for just a few weeks, I learned some surprising new facts like:

Drug addiction is a disease. Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works.

A girl flagging a cab down.

Marijuana can be addictive. The changes from using marijuana or any drug are different for each person. For marijuana, about 1 in 11 people who use it become addicted, and that rate goes up if you start young and if you smoke a lot. To learn the facts about marijuana, check out the booklet, Marijuana: Facts for Teens.

Not all drugs are illegal. Tobacco and alcohol are both addictive drugs and can cause serious health problems. Similarly, prescription drugs, which are meant to help people with health problems, can become addictive and are being abused at high rates among all age groups, including teens.

If more people knew the facts, they could better understand drugs and their consequences. I know I do. The next National Drug Facts Week starts January 28, 2013. I’ll be watching the National Drug Facts Week Web site to see what new and interesting things NIDA has to offer.


Sharlett in front of ocean

Chat Day: Let's Talk About Drugs

Today marks NIDA’s fourth annual Drug Facts Chat Day! Beginning in 2007, NIDA scientists teamed up with a few high schools to create an online forum for teens to ask questions about drug abuse and the science behind addiction. This year, Chat Day is taking place during the first annual National Drug Facts Week, November 8–14—a whole week dedicated to shattering the myths about drugs and addiction. You can participate. Read on:

How to Get in on Chat Day

  1. Check to see if your school has preregistered for Chat Day. If your school has registered, you will be given an access code to log into the chat. Since Chat Day takes place completely online, anyone at a registered school can participate from any computer! The chat begins at 8 a.m. EST on November 9th and will stay open until 6 p.m. EST—there’s plenty of time to join in!
  2. Think of what you’d like to ask. NIDA scientists will be ready and waiting to answer your questions. Type a question about drug abuse or addiction into the chat box and a NIDA expert will be on hand in real time to answer it. If your question isn’t answered right then and there, it will be addressed after Chat Day is over and included as part of a transcript on our website. Here’s the one from last year. We might even post your question and our answer here on the SBB.
  3. Spread the word! Tell your friends and teachers to get involved with Chat Day and National Drug Facts Week. The more people who participate, the more myths can be shattered!

Learn more about Drug Facts Chat Day and National Drug Facts Week

Experts responding to student questions

Shattering the Myths: Q & A With an NDFW Participant

Christa Reuter is a 21-year-old carpentry vocation student at the Great Onyx Job Corps in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. She has completed the program and will begin her new job soon. The Sara Bellum Blog asked Christa about her experience participating in National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) and what she learned.

What does your community do for National Drug Facts Week?

As part of National Drug Facts Week, the Great Onyx Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center hosts contests that help teens learn about addiction and drug abuse. During these contests, I learned that you can be addicted to more than just drugs. So, to me, shattering the myths about addiction involves learning about more than just drugs.

How do you define addiction?

I think addiction is a behavior that is supported by a person’s thoughts and feelings. Addiction can have bad consequences in a person’s life and the lives of people around them. When someone is addicted, behaviors like using drugs become so important in the person’s life that they think drugs are part of normal life. [*See below for NIDA’s definition of addiction.]

Why do you think it’s important to share facts about addiction and drug abuse with teens?

I think sharing the facts about addiction and drug abuse is really important because many of the people I know that are my age and younger already have an addiction or are starting down the path of addiction. Any knowledge that can help them change their behaviors and ways of thinking will help them and those around them.

What are you doing to shatter the myths about drug use?

I helped spread the word about the dangers of drug abuse beyond National Drug Facts Week by sharing what I learned with my friends, coworkers, and family. I hope that by sharing drug facts I will help them learn what I have learned and encourage them to steer clear of drugs and alcohol, and be aware of the signs of addiction so that they can change their behaviors and thoughts.

Thank you to my National Drug Facts Week mentor Mr. Joe and the Great Onyx Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center for bringing National Drug Facts Week to my community!

Job Corps is a technical training program from the U.S. Department of Labor that helps young people improve their lives by helping them through school and teaching them valuable career skills. The Great Onyx Job Corps supports National Drug Facts Week by holding events for their students.

*Note from NIDA: NIDA defines addiction as a chronic relapsing brain disease marked by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite negative consequences. 

Tell us: In your own words, how do you define addiction? Why do you think it’s important for teens to learn the facts about addiction and drug abuse?

Christa Reuter

Shout Out for Making Smart Choices

Teens have so many choices to make: what classes and afterschool activities to sign up for, which music or videos to download, where to go to hang out with friends. And that’s not all of them! Making smart decisions can be complicated, but there’s one choice you can make that might help other teens as much as it helps you: On October 28, join the Sara Bellum Blog for the National Drug Facts Week CyberShoutout to shatter the myths about drugs. By learning the facts about drugs and drug abuse [PDF, 7.42MB] and sharing your thoughts on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter, you’ll join thousands of teens around the country who are spreading the truth. How You Can Participate On October 28, we encourage you to do one of the following:

  • Blog about what you learned about drug abuse and let us know about it by dropping us a comment or sending us a message. SBB will post a link to select blogs on our blogroll.
  • Tweet your shoutout and use the hashtag #drugfacts2011. NIDA might retweet you on October 28. Post to your Facebook page using the tag @DrugFacts, link to NIDA’s CyberShoutout page, and share some important info that your friends might not know. If you post to your Facebook page, remember to open the privacy settings for that particular post so we can see what you wrote!
  • Give us a shoutout by simply posting a comment to one of the SBB posts you like on October 28!

No matter how you participate in the CyberShoutout, we hope you’ll be an online opinion leader on October 28 and help your peers get the facts about drug abuse and addiction!

Teen thinking about smart choices

Get Involved and Help Shatter the Myths About Drug Abuse

It’s the final countdown to National Drug Facts Week—January 28 through February 3, 2013! National Drug Facts Week, organized by NIDA, is a week of raising awareness in which schools and communities across the country host events and activities that empower teens to “shatter the myths” about drug abuse and addiction.

If you’re a student leader or already working to prevent drug abuse as part of an organization like SADD, National Drug Facts Week is a great way to stand out as a community champion in teen drug abuse prevention.

Getting involved is simple. Follow these 5 steps to plan and implement your event:

NDFW logo.
  • Brainstorm event ideas. Make sure the event or activity you select fits the size, interest, and strengths of your community.
  • Register your event. It’s easy! This will connect you with NIDA staff who can help direct you to FREE materials and other resources for your event.
  • Order FREE materials to distribute at your event.
  • Promote and publicize your event—this step is key to success!
  • Share pictures and stories about your event with NIDA. And don’t forget to thank everyone who participated!

Curious what events are already planned? Check out the National Drug Facts Week interactive map.

Do you have a great event idea to share? Comment and let us know how you plan to shatter the myths about teen drug abuse in your community.

A group of teenagers.

NIDA Goes to School: Teens Become the Teachers

Hello, my name is Christian and I was the graphic designer for NIDA’s new Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths booklet. The goal for me was to create something visually that teens would enjoy reading, rather than being made to read. Teens are very savvy when it comes to messages, so we wanted to present the information in a way that was easy to understand and interesting to look at. I was lucky enough to go to a high school with a team from NIDA to get students’ feedback on our work. It was really valuable, and a lot of their ideas made it into the final design. We learned some key things like:

  • Teens didn't like preachy messages, they wanted facts.
  • They liked photos of teens outside school, not in school, in situations that they could relate to.
  • They cared about design and told us what worked and what didn’t work for them.
  • Several commented that they didn’t like being talked down to, or being imitated (“you’re trying too hard”) by the use of texting shorthand in the booklet. KWIM?

All of the responses we received, positive and negative, helped to make the booklet better. Connecting with teens was vital in creating the piece, and we hope it helps keep you informed.

Christian Cabrera, age 34, is an art director at MFM Design and helped design the Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths booklet with NIDA. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Media Arts and Design.

Tell us what you think about the Drug Facts: Shatter The Myths booklet in the comments.

Christian Cabrera

Share the Latest Stats During National Drug Facts Week

During National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), communities across the country are shattering the myths about drug abuse and addiction.

Several myths about drugs and drug abuse are related to how many teens are abusing certain drugs and what teens really think about drugs. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study is an annual survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders that asks about alcohol, drug, and tobacco use and teens’ attitude toward these drugs. More than 40,000 teens participate every year.

Below are the findings from the 2013 study. Share this infographic with your friends, family, and classmates during NDFW to spread the truth about drug abuse.

Last two decades of alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use

Marijuana: As perceived harm drops, use goes up

60% of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana use as harmful.

Prescription/Over-the-Counter Versus Illicit Drugs

Abuse of some synthetic drugs is down.

Monitoring the Future 2013