This past June, NIDA attended the Students Against Destructive Decisions’ (SADD) national conference in Chicago to give our partner a sneak peek of the new PEERx materials, which aim to raise awareness in young people about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
SADD members from across the country came to the conference to discuss real-life issues that affect teens, exchange ideas, and share opinions on current programs that address teens and risky choices like abusing prescription drug abuse or texting while driving.
Red Fingernails Send a Message
We learned about some cool things going on in communities around the United States, including an effort to increase participation in Red Ribbon Week. In case you don’t know, the last week in October each year is a time for communities and individuals to get active in taking a stand against drug abuse. Red Ribbon Week was established in honor of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle to stop illegal drugs from coming into our country.
To highlight Red Ribbon Week, some SADD members walked around the conference with nail polish and painted one nail on everyone’s hand red to symbolize that it only takes one bad decision to go down the wrong path. Both girls AND boys did the red fingernail thing, which got a lot of attention!
We had a great time learning about SADD members’ interests and passion to help their peers avoid destructive decisions. Many stopped by the NIDA booth to catch a sneak peek of our Choose Your Path video that just went live as part of PEERx. Let us know what you think.
If you’re a SADD member, say a quick “hello” in the comments section below and let us know what you liked most about the conference. We’d love to hear from you!
In the past 5 years, Danny McCoy has told this story to thousands of teens: When he was 19 years old, he drove home from a fraternity party after a night of drinking. He fell asleep for only a few seconds. In those moments, he hit a utility pole, killing his 17-year-old passenger, Alexandra Everhart.
Danny feels the horror and guilt born of that night every day of his life. In a newspaper interview after one high school assembly, McCoy says, "I'm telling you all, you do not want to put that much pain and destruction in this world."
Unfortunately, this story is all too common. Teens who’ve been partying late, whose judgment has been impaired by drugs or alcohol, or who are just plain tired, decide to take the wheel. Every year, about 3,500 American teens die in car crashes, and 22% of drivers aged 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes were drinking. Beyond those lives lost, countless more—those of their parents, siblings, and friends—are devastated as a result.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. It’s also the month for high school proms, college admissions, and spring fever—all of which might make you and your friends eager to celebrate. However, teens are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcohol because their brains and bodies are still developing.
Danny McCoy can never bring Alexandra Everhart back. All he can do is tell his story and hope that it causes at least one person to make the responsible decision not to drive impaired.
Check out these four tips to avoid drinking and driving. Do you have other strategies? Tell us in comments.
NIDA faces AIDS by continuing to explore the link between HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. Here are some facts we shared in a recent post that bear repeating on World AIDS Day.
- HIV is transmitted when an infected person's blood or other bodily fluid comes in contact with the blood, broken skin, or mucous membranes of someone who is not infected.
- Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV, affecting people of every age, race, and creed. Even teens.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 50,000 young people 13 to 24 years old were living with the virus that causes AIDS in 2006, and nearly half didn't even know they had it.
- Using drugs and alcohol also puts people at risk for HIV/AIDS. That's because when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their judgment is impaired, and they're more likely to take risks they normally wouldn't, like having sex without protection. Since HIV is sexually transmitted, unprotected sex can lead to getting HIV or giving it to someone else. And since so many teens don't even know they have HIV, they can pass it on without even knowing.
Join NIDA and face AIDS by linking from your MySpace or Facebook profile to our Webisode series. Or, post a NIDA Web banner to your page. We also encourage you to participate in AIDS.gov's World AIDS Day 2009 activities. If you have a blog, please join the 300+ bloggers who are writing about HIV/AIDS today to help spread the message to your friends that there is a link between non-injection drugs and HIV.
Get this: There are more than one billion smokers on planet Earth. Yep, that’s a billion people around the world whose nicotine addiction is leading to high rates of cancer and emphysema, increased air pollution and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes more deaths each year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined!
So what to do about it? For starters, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared May 31 as “World No Tobacco Day.” For this year’s theme, WHO is focusing on women and girls—who make up about 20% of all smokers worldwide. That’s more than 200 million women and girls who may not be getting all the facts!
But fortunately, the trend with teens is going in the right direction. The latest Monitoring the Future report of teens in 8th, 10th and 12th grades found that Cigarette smoking among U.S. teens is at its lowest point since the survey started in 1975. That’s a fact worth celebrating, since smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in this country, which means the best way to avoid these negative consequences is not to start.
Other trends are not so good, including the one showing that advertisers are targeting more girls outside the U.S., who may not know as much about the dangers of smoking.
Everyone can take a step toward making May 31 tobacco-free—in your family, your school, your community, or the world. If you or someone you love smokes, get the facts. The American Cancer Society is a good place to start, with a Guide to Quitting Smoking.
Make every day a No-Tobacco Day!
Today, communities and organizations across the country will help people understand how important it is to take care of children’s mental health. This year’s focus is on helping children recover from traumatic experiences. Learn more about the observance and the effects of trauma on the brain by reading our previous post, Mental Health and Young People.
Attend an Awareness Day Event
More than 1,000 communities in the United States are celebrating National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day by hosting interactive events for children and adults. Here is just a sampling of the activities planned:
Delaware. Delaware’s B.E.S.T. for Young Children and Their Families will host its 8th annual “Get the Scoop on Mental Health.” Participants will learn about children’s mental health and get a free scoop of Italian ice at participating Rita’s Water Ice locations.
Michigan. American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeastern Michigan has planned several activities that include poetry and storytelling “open mic,” healthy cooking demonstrations, green smoothies, face painting, an art table with beading, bouncy house, Native musical chairs, and a play area for younger kids.
Texas. Hand in Hand is partnering with a Fort Worth high school program in which at-risk high school art students and local college graduates develop murals for walls that have been targets for graffiti. The mural theme is “Play Matters 4 Children’s Mental Health.”
Virginia. The Virginia Art Therapy Association is hosting "Heroes of Hope" at the Children's Museum of Richmond. The event will include a Q&A panel discussion for parents and caregivers, art making, and the “Heroes of Hope” exhibit of art by children and teens ages 4–18.
Find a National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event near you!
Watch Heroes of Hope
If you are unable to attend an event in person, you can participate by watching a tribute program about children and teens who have recovered from traumatic experiences, as well as the parents and caregivers—their Heroes of Hope—who helped them get well. Live performances by youth from around the country will also honor these Heroes of Hope.
Watch the live webcast from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. eastern time. You can participate by commenting on Facebook and tweeting during the webcast using the hashtag #HeroesofHope.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.
In November 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill hoping to change this frightening statistic for future generations. Nicknamed the “Tobacco 21 Bill,” it raises the legal age for buying tobacco products—including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and cigars—in NYC from age 18 to 21.
This will be one of the strictest limits on tobacco purchases in any major city in the United States, sending a healthy message, trying to delay young people’s access to tobacco, and reducing long-term addiction.
Here are some facts from a report of the U.S. Surgeon General:
- Nearly 9 out of 10 people who smoke started by age 18.
- The younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely it is they’ll become addicted.
- Almost 1 in 4 high school seniors smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days.
Despite those facts, some people don’t like the Tobacco 21 Bill, saying that it takes away a person’s ability to make his or her own choices.
Age 18 is the legal age when the majority of rights—such as driving, voting, and fighting for your country—are granted. Some people argue that having control of your health and body is another right. Others argue that people who smoke under the legal age will simply find ways around the law.
But smoking is horrible for you, right? Cigarette smoking has been linked to about 90 percent of all lung cancer cases, the number-one cancer killer of both men and women. Why would anyone argue against a law that will probably save lives?
Regardless of the controversy, however, raising the legal age for buying tobacco products seems to be a trend coming to a city near you! Several towns in Massachusetts have already banned tobacco sales to those under age 21 and similar legislation has been introduced in Washington, DC, as well.
By the way, today’s teens are smarter than ever about not smoking cigarettes. In 1997, nearly 25% of 12th graders smoked every day; now that number is less than 10%. But how do we keep that last 10% from even starting, so they can lead healthier lives?
What do you think, should the legal age for buying tobacco be raised to 21 everywhere?
In 2010, NIDA assembled its first Teen Advisory Group (TAG) to get authentic teen feedback on how to improve our Web sites and materials for teens. TAG members have been key in developing the Sara Bellum Blog as well as new materials that will soon appear on the PEERx Web site. They have also helped with other cool tools still in development. We bring together teens from all over the country who meet once a month over the phone and online to give their feedback and opinions on the design and functionality of Web pages, activities, logos, names of our awareness programs, characters in videos, scripts, ways of reaching teens in social media, and much more.
In order to be eligible, you must currently be 13-18 years old and enrolled in a U.S. high school.
What’s in it for you?
Not only do we get your valuable feedback to help us develop our Web site and materials targeted to teens, but you also benefit from participating in the TAG.
- For every four sessions in which you participate, you will receive $100. If you are not able to participate in all 4 sessions, you will get the equivalent of $25 dollars per session.
- You get something awesome to put on your college applications and résumés. You can say that you helped the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of NIH (the National Institutes of Health), develop materials for teens to learn about the dangers of and the science behind drug abuse.
- It’s a great way to connect with teens around the country to talk about how to get the message out to your peers.
- It’s also fun. You get to tell us what you do or do not like. If you want your voice to be heard, if you want to make a difference, this is the right place for you.
So what’s stopping you? Shoot us an email at NIDATAG@iqsolutions.com We look forward to hearing from you!
SBB recently caught up with a few past winners of the NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award to find out what the teens are doing now. Not everyone has followed a science path, but they are all in college pursuing their interests. In this series, the winners offer advice for today’s high school students trying to figure out what to do after graduation.
“Having a good support system at home is a major plus,” said Ameya Deshmukh. The Ohio State University sophomore earned NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award recognition for his high school science fair project researching possible stop-smoking medications. Ameya’s parents are both researchers who have encouraged him to pursue his interests in biomedical science research. A high school advisor also played a part in helping him get experience in his chosen field.
For Ameya, winning the NIDA award as a high school junior enabled him to take a summer internship with NIDA’s Intramural Research Program (IRP), studying applied research on nicotine addiction using animal models.
Discovering Lessons for Life
Drawing on this experience has been helpful, he said. Ameya is now studying biochemistry and economics, combining an interest in business and research, working in cancer research. At Ohio State, he works in a lab that is trying to develop a vaccine to treat a virus that can lead to lymphoma under some circumstances. “I was inspired to get into research because I saw that having the ability to develop drugs and vaccines and medical technologies can make a real difference in people’s lives.” Beyond the lab, Ameya says he would like one day to be able to commercialize his research, perhaps developing products for the marketplace.
He noted, “Working in cancer research is exciting; it’s really a moving field right now. At Ohio State, I have gotten the opportunity to work under the CEO of one of the leading research hospitals in the country on a vaccine development project.”
Every 9 ½ minutes: that's how often the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that someone in the U.S. gets infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In the next 10 minutes, someone will get HIV—and it could be your friend or someone in your family.
By the way, do you remember the word for thought in my earlier post? Comorbidity? Well, HIV is one of the many diseases that is "comorbid with" drug use. NIDA's "Learn the Link" campaign is all about how drug use can expose us to infection from HIV. When someone is using drugs, their decisions may not be well considered. They can have poor judgment and do risky things, like having unprotected sex. And that might mean getting infected with HIV.
According to the CDC, by the end of 2007, 3,230 adolescents 13 to 19 years old were reported to be living with AIDS in the United States and dependent areas (like Puerto Rico). And unfortunately, more people are getting infected all the time.
June 27 was National HIV Testing Day. Did you get tested?
This is a guest SBB post from NIDA intern Giselle.
You might have heard the news that former first lady Betty Ford recently died at the age of 93. Many of you reading this might never have heard of Betty Ford; after all, she became First Lady way back in 1974. But maybe you’ve heard of the Betty Ford Center, a rehab center in Rancho Mirage, California, where many celebrities have gone to seek treatment for their addictions. You also may not know why she built the center.
Not long after Richard Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal, Jerry Ford suddenly became President and the family got thrust into public life. Betty Ford wrote in her memoirs that her family never wanted that level of fame, but accepted it to help the country through difficult times.
Over the years, as the spotlight on Betty Ford and her family grew, she began to drink more heavily on top of a dependency on pain pills, which started in 1964 when she got a prescription to relieve constant pain from a neck injury and a pinched nerve. We now know that mixing pills and alcohol is a big mistake. Once she was First Lady, people began to notice that when she spoke she was slowly slurring her words and she seemed to have no energy. After her husband’s presidency was over, Betty Ford left public life and soon announced she was addicted to pills and alcohol. In her memoirs, she tells the story about how her family confronted her about her addiction, which at first she was not happy about. Later, she thanked them and became a champion for people struggling with the disease.
Her openness about her addiction was shocking to some people. Forty years ago, people tried to hide the fact they had an addiction problem, but she bravely brought it into the light, giving others the courage to ask for help with their own drug abuse and addiction problems. She entered rehab and, with treatment, learned to manage her addictions. A few years later she opened a rehab center in her name to help other people. Today the Betty Ford Center is a thriving treatment center, and because of its closeness to Los Angeles, it has become a rehab center for many famous people, including Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey, Jr., Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others.
So SBB says thank you Betty Ford for having the courage to use your personal story to educate people about addiction, and for bringing it from the darkness into the light, from shame and despair to treatment and hope.
How did she have the courage to bring her addiction out in the open? She has been quoted as saying, “The public needed to know that this didn’t have to be swept under the rug anymore, that this needed to be open and discussed.”
You’re going to an after-prom party, and your parents ask if the host’s parents will be there. You may say, “yes,” and it may be true, but you also secretly may know that they will allow underage guests to drink alcohol. You think this is okay, because, after all, an adult is there.
Not only is it always illegal for people under age 21 to drink alcohol—no matter where you are or who you got it from—but the adults serving underage people may also be breaking the law.
More than 30 states have passed “social host” laws that punish adults (anyone age 21+) who permit underage drinking on their property. This means that even if the adult who owns the property didn’t supply the alcohol, they can still be liable.
Tell us: What do you think when adults are willing to give underage people alcohol?
It's that time of year again-time to announce the results of NIDA's annual Monitoring the Future survey. For the 34th year, researchers went into classrooms all over the country and asked young people to fill out surveys about their drug use. This year 46,097 8th, 10th and 12th graders participated—that's a lot of teens! As the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this is one of my favorite times of the year because we hold a big news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to let the public know what the researchers learned. Here's the news this year, good and bad.
The good news is that methamphetamine use is at its lowest since the survey started tracking it 10 years ago. At that time, 4.7% of teens said they had tried meth in the previous month, but this year, just 1.2% said they had used it. Teens are also smoking cigarettes less than they used to. About 1 in 10 high school seniors say they smoke every day, compared to 4 in 10 in 1999. This drop translates to longer, healthier lives for today's teens.
But of course the survey also shows some not-so-good things. So while cigarette smoking is down, it looks as if more kids are chewing tobacco. Believe it or not, more than 6% of 10th graders say they use smokeless tobacco. Smokeless tobacco products contain many toxins, as well as high levels of nicotine (3-4 times more than cigarettes), which makes them addictive. Not to mention what it does to your teeth and breath. Here are some more facts.
Also, too many teens are still abusing prescription drugs, which is not good. Unless a medicine is prescribed for you and you take it the way your doctor tells you to, prescription pills can be as dangerous as street drugs. In fact, more people are dying from accidental overdoses of prescription drugs than from cocaine and heroin combined. We have done some blogs about this in the past.
And for the first time, NIDA's Monitoring the Future survey asked 12th graders about their use of salvia, an herb common to southern Mexico and Central and South America—5.7% of high school seniors had abused it in the past year. People who abuse salvia typically experience hallucinations or episodes that resemble a type of mental illness known as psychosis (sigh-ko-sis), which can really be scary.
For more information on this year's survey results, go to the NIDA home page and click on the "Monitoring the Future" link.
This is a guest post from the Director of NIDA, Dr. Nora Volkow.
Have you ever cut class? If so, what goes through your mind…how do you tell yourself it’s ok? And what would discourage you from doing it? Believe it or not, those were the questions asked by one of NIDA’s Addiction Science Fair winners this year—Joseph Hunter Yagoda, a 17-year-old student at the William A. Shine Great Neck High School in Great Neck, N.Y.
He won the third place award for his analysis of the thought process that goes into a teenager's decision to cut classes at school. He titled it "Risky Business: What Cognitive Factors Influence Risk Taking in the Academic Setting?" He figured out a way to measure why teens cut class and what their perceived benefits were of attending class. He learned that one of the biggest reasons students cut class is because they think “everyone else does it.” So he has recommended that schools create smaller social spaces, so it will never appear that a lot of people are out of class at one time. He also found out that fewer teens would cut class if attendance rules were more strongly enforced, with real consequences. And [shock], he suggested that teachers make classes more interesting and useful so students would WANT to attend class. Now that’s an idea SBB really likes!
What does all of this have to do with addiction? Cutting classes can sidetrack you in risky ways…For one, teens tend to cut non-academic classes, like health and P.E. and so miss a lot of information taught about substance abuse. Second, we all know that when you skip school, you can get tempted to goof off in other ways, like smoking and drinking. But I’m not telling you something you don’t already know!
NIDA’s Addiction Science award is given at the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which was in San Jose this year. For more information see NIDA’s news release at http://www.nida.nih.gov/newsroom/10/NR5-14.html
What unique question would you want to answer in a science project?
Did you know that of the top 22 substances teens abused across the country in 2011, 8 were prescription drugs often found in the family medicine cabinet? “Abuse” of prescription drugs includes taking them without a prescription, even if you’re taking them for medical reasons. It can also mean sharing your prescription drugs with friends or taking them in a way not intended, including to get high.
Most of the prescription drugs that teens abused were addictive painkillers not even on the list of drugs of abuse a decade ago! Some teens originally got these prescriptions for legitimate reasons, such as having their wisdom teeth pulled or experiencing sports injuries. But, unfortunately, many did not realize how dangerous prescription drugs can be when abused, and they wound up addicted or in the hospital.
We are the University High School Florida SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) Chapter, and the facts, as well as the prescription drug abuse problem in our home state, inspired us to become teen ambassadors for NIDA’s PEERx campaign about prescription drug abuse prevention.
The problem in our state is huge. Last year, prosecutors called Florida the “epicenter” of an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, prescription painkiller sales per person were more than three times higher in Florida than in the state with the lowest sales per person (Illinois).
The SADD Florida teens’ philosophy is, “If the problem is mine, the solution also begins with me.” With that in mind, we were really excited to represent our fellow peers and SADD as the official “PEERx teen ambassadors” during the first-ever National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando, Florida.
We got a VIP experience during our entire time at the national summit! We met the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Regina Benjamin; the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske; Congressman Hal Rogers from Kentucky; and the Director of NIDA, Dr. Nora Volkow.
Everyone was curious about our experiences and ideas. Stamping people’s hands at the exhibit with “CYP” helped to create curiosity about the “Choose Your Path” videos that we displayed at the PEERx booth. Throughout the 2 days, we talked to people who came to the PEERx booth and told them all about the NIDA campaign, which includes an Activity Guide for teens, fact sheets, cool designs you can download to make t-shirts (we were wearing them), and lots more.
We assisted 100 adults who attended a workshop about PEERx and helped provide them with a “teen perspective” on fun and creative ways to bring PEERx into their community organization or school. We were also interviewed by local television and newspaper reporters, who asked us about the PEERx initiative, the prescription drug abuse problem in our area, and what we are doing about it.
This was a fantastic experience that we will never forget. Thanks NIDA!!!
Alaina Sonksen is a senior at Camdenton High School in Missouri. She won the 3rd place 2013 Addiction Science Award. Her project looked at how two types of bath salts affect the activity, feeding patterns, and death of fruit flies. After receiving her award, she told the writers of the Sara Bellum Blog about herself and her winning project.
What inspired you to research addiction science?
My science research instructor and mentor was Mr. Christopher Reeves. At the end of my sophomore year, Mr. Reeves recruited several underclassmen that he thought would thrive in science research. As far as my specific project, my parents gave me the idea. They attended a local town hall meeting, and the topic was on synthetic substances. After returning from the meeting, they encouraged me to share the harms of these drugs with my school and community in some way. At first, I was skeptical. After all, what can one high school student do? So I dropped it. Then, last fall, I was scrambling around trying to think of a science research topic. My parents brought up the idea of synthetic substances once more, and I was immediately taken with the idea. I certainly had an interesting and relevant science research project, and I'm so glad they encouraged me to pursue synthetic substances as an area of study.
What were some of the challenges you faced while doing your research for the Addiction Science Awards?
Time was the biggest challenge with my project. It was extremely hard to do everything in just a few short months. Science research overall was a bit of a challenge for me because science has never been my favorite subject. I was definitely out of my comfort zone participating in science research. As hard as it was, I am extremely glad that I chose to do science research.
What were some of the most exciting things you learned from doing your research?
So many great things came from it. I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing what I did in science research in such a short amount of time—especially without the help of a university. Of course, I can't forget the awesome rewards that came from it! I never thought I would do so well or go so far with my project, so I was ecstatic that my hard work actually paid off! Even more important than the awards, though, were the friends that I made at the science research competitions. I can't express how thankful I am that science research brought us together. For me, that alone was the greatest reward of science research this year.
Do you plan on studying science and continuing research in the future?
I will not be studying a scientific field in college. Although I had a fun and rewarding experience conducting the experiment that won an Addiction Science Award, my passion lies elsewhere. I am considering studying English, education, or even business and marketing. I am still undecided. Even though I will not be pursuing a career in science, I am glad that I participated. It challenged and stretched me, and it broadened my horizons in many ways. I know that those life lessons will be applicable to whatever I choose to do with my life and career.
Do you have any recommendations for high school students interested in doing their own research?
To any students that are interested in science research ... Do it!
It will challenge you, it will teach you, and it will reward you if you work hard. If you have a passion for science, I highly recommend it. There's no better thing you can do as a young, science-minded person than to participate in science research.
"Why does that guy keep breathing into that stupid paper bag?"
"Did you see that kid back there? Looks kinda’ dazed."
"Oh no, I think she’s passed out. Wait, is she still breathing?"
Ever seen someone at school weaving around like he’s drunk, but you know he’s never taken a drink? Maybe he smelled funny – like gasoline or rubbing alcohol or even air freshener. Or perhaps he talked about seeing things – hallucinations – that you know aren’t there.
What’s really going on?
What you may have observed is someone under the effect of inhalants. These are common household substances that people actually sniff – or “huff”– to get high.
This year, National Inhalants and Poison Prevention Week takes place the week of March 20-26, and aims to shed light on this pressing matter. “Just a single session of repeated inhalations can cause permanent organ damage or death,” according to NIDA Acting Deputy Director Dr. David Shurtleff. “Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. Given the wide availability of these substances and the severe health consequences they can produce, inhalant abuse is a serious problem.”
Sara Bellum attended a news conference this week about this topic and its dangers. Erin Davis, mom of a teenager, was there to tell her story of inhalant addiction. For 2 years, she was addicted to inhaling computer keyboard cleaning spray. During that time, she had a seizure from the toxic effects to her brain; she was charged with reckless driving; and she even lost her parenting rights.
As the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Gil Kerlikowske noted, “Just because a product is legal doesn't mean it is safe.” Dr. Shurtleff reminded the audience that “these products are poisons.”
When you use these products, be safe—point them away from your face, not toward it.
SBB recently caught up with a few past winners of the NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award to find out what the teens are doing now. Not everyone has followed a science path, but they are all in college pursuing their interests. In this series, the winners offer advice for today’s high school students trying to figure out what to do after graduation.
Yamini Naidu from Portland, OR, impressed judges for the NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award with her project on methamphetamine addiction. After winning the award, she was invited to present her research to NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and other scientists. As a result, she received the opportunity to spend summer 2012 as an intern working in NIDA’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) in Baltimore, MD.
Yamini first became interested in neuroscience after her uncle passed away from a stroke. She felt driven to pursue research related to that disease, even though other members of her family weren’t particularly science oriented. “I think one of the best ways to get involved in science is to do a science project that interests you. We had a middle school program where all kids had to do a project; that was my introduction to science.”
She started working with her teachers in middle school and later in high school for support. “That gave me contacts and relationships with other people interested in science. They helped me act on my interest.”
Discovering Lessons for Life
“Dr. Volkow is an inspiration to me,” said Yamini. “She revolutionized the idea of drug addiction as a disease and not a character defect. I admire the way she encourages young people.” The NIDA internship also opened a lot of doors for her. “It gave me a new perspective on science research. I had so much support from people at the IRP. I enjoyed the experience so much; I wanted to stay much longer.”
Yamini encourages other teens to pursue their dreams. “Don’t worry about failing or not living up to standards. Take one step at a time, and you’ll be able to help make a difference.”
What do you want first, the good news or the bad news? Whenever a conversation starts this way, you know things are going to get interesting.
Check out this video clip where Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA's Director, talks face-to-face with 100 teens at Harlem High School in New York about drug abuse. See what she says when someone asks her about Internet addiction. She is really open and honest, explaining both the good and the bad about taking risks. View the video to the right and feel free to share it with your friends.
NIDA’s first-ever Virtual Town Hall on Prevention is now online! What’s a Virtual Town Hall? Well, NIDA asked a bunch of experts in drug abuse prevention to come to the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and talk about how different communities can set up programs for teens that give them interesting things to do after school and on weekends. At the same time, we asked a lot of people up in Maine to meet at the local Opera House in Camden so they could ask our experts questions by satellite. NIDA research shows that when teens have neat things to do, they are less likely to make poor choices out of boredom. The programs are called “prevention” programs because having interesting activities to participate in can prevent making bad choices about drugs.
For example, at the Town Hall, we saw a video of kids in Maine rock climbing, hanging out with farm animals (have you ever groomed a cow?), doing service projects. Even the kids admitted there wasn’t much to do in their towns so they were happy to have after-school activities that interested them and made them feel good. And guess what? Drug use is down in those towns! If you want to see our Virtual Town Hall video you can click on this link—there’s even a 6-minute version. Show it to your teachers or coaches so they can learn why after school activities are important.
SBB wants to know if you think there are enough fun activities in your town for teens. If not, why not start something?
What is Allura Garis’ Natural High? Music.
Why? She enjoys how music brings people together. She also loves the passion that her favorite musicians bring to their performances.
Allura became the Youth Engagement Coordinator for Natural High, a drug abuse prevention organization, thanks to her commitment to living a drug-free life. But it wasn’t always that way.
A Rocky Start
As a high school freshman in southern California, Allura worked with local and national rock musicians as a band promoter, helping to expose teens and young adults to new music and encouraging them to attend concerts.
Unfortunately, Allura fell in with the wrong crowd her junior year. Her new friends did drugs, and she began to drink alcohol. But it didn’t take long for Allura to realize the need to stop these destructive behaviors.
“I lost self-respect,” Allura says. “I was working so hard to get my name out in the music business and I knew acting like this wasn’t going to help.”
A Life-Changing Encounter
Allura attended the 2010 Warped Tour, where she visited Natural High’s informational tent. She took a sticker that said, “Music Is my Natural High.” Later, she looked up the organization online and watched a video featuring Cassadee Pope, winner of NBC’s “The Voice” season 3. Like Allura, Cassadee’s natural high was music. In the video, she said that she didn’t drink alcohol or do drugs because, “I don’t want to be strung out, I want to have fun on tour, I want to be lively and young….I stay away from it.”
Her words hit home with Allura: “That was a message I really needed at that moment.”
Allura emailed Natural High and asked how she could get involved. She began interning with the organization in the summer of 2010. A year later, Natural High hired her as Youth Engagement Coordinator because of her enthusiasm for helping teens choose a positive lifestyle, and for her continuing role as a youth trendsetter in the local music scene.
In summer 2013, Allura will have the chance to introduce teens to the concept of “natural high” the way she learned about it: She will coordinate Natural High’s presence at all five of the southern California stops for the Warped Tour. She’ll manage the tent, plan the campaign, research the bands, and conduct band interviews. She will also represent Natural High at the 2013 Switchfoot Bro-Am benefit festival for at-risk youth.
“This journey has come full circle for me,” Allura says. “I love that I get to remind teens that there are teens and musicians that live a drug-free lifestyle.”
Now 20 years old, Allura Garis is a college student at Mesa College in San Diego and is in charge of social media outreach for Natural High. Besides music, she loves to skateboard, play tennis and softball, and spend time outside in southern California’s beautiful, sunny weather. Her other natural high is spending time with her best friends, and she hopes to plan a trip for them to visit San Francisco this summer.
Imagine you are a teen with ADHD. It’s hard for you to focus in class, your mind wanders everywhere, and even though you want to do well in class you’d much rather be outside shooting hoops. Although you take notes, it’s hard for you to remember the teacher’s instructions. So after a medical evaluation, your doctor prescribes stimulants to help you focus. That’s what happened to NIDA’s second place Addiction Science Award winner, Kevin Knight, a 17-year-old junior at Collegiate High School in Niceville, Florida. Based on his own experience, Kevin wanted to know if there were other ways besides medication to train his brain to focus.
So he decided to take a scientific look at computer programs designed to improve focus and memory with his project, "Improving ADHD Treatment: A Comparison of Stimulant Medication Treatment for Children with ADHD."
Computerized Cognitive Training of Attention and Working Memory, and the Combination of the Two," took a lot of work (even more than coming up with that title!) He worked with doctors to find teenage volunteers with ADHD to see if they could improve their focus and memory by playing computer “brain games.”
Kevin was surprised by what he learned. The best outcomes came with kids who took their medication AND used the computer programs. They had better focus and better memory. Kevin even tested himself, and improved his own ability to focus. This suggests that computer games used with medications could be part of an effective approach for treating ADHD.
Why was this given an “Addiction Science” award? Because the medications prescribed for ADHD, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are stimulants, and stimulants can be abused. Some kids even give or sell the pills to their friends, which can be dangerous. For more information on stimulants taken for ADHD, check out http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/ADHD.html.
NIDA’s Addiction Science award is given at the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which was in San Jose this year. For more information on NIDA’s 3 winners, see NIDA’s news release at http://www.nida.nih.gov/newsroom/10/NR5-14.html
What is part of your personal experience that might be the basis of a cool science fair project?
This week is the first annual National Prevention Week (NPW)—a celebration of what people and organizations do in their communities to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and to promote mental and emotional well-being. We want to celebrate every teen that makes healthy choices when it comes to drug abuse and mental health.
How Are You Taking Action?
Most teens don’t use illegal drugs or drink alcohol. Instead, they focus on their futures, school, hobbies, family, sports, clubs, etc. You can participate in National Prevention Week by spreading the word that most teens make healthy choices and by encouraging others to think twice before taking risks with their health and safety.
Each day during the week, National Prevention Week focuses on a different theme:
Monday: Prevention of Underage Drinking
Tuesday: Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Use
Wednesday: Prevention of Alcohol Abuse
Thursday: Suicide Prevention
Friday: Promotion of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-Being
You can set a positive example for your friends and family by posting a message on Facebook about your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, focusing on the daily theme. Or, tweet about the daily theme using the hashtag #NPW2012. It only takes one person to make a difference!
Take the Prevention Pledge on Facebook
Along with setting a good example, you can do other things to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and promote mental health in your own life and the lives of those you love. You could talk with someone who’s having a difficult time, or encourage your friends to eat healthy and exercise. Read and take NPW’s Prevention Pledge on Facebook to learn more about ways you can help.
Share NPW’s Official PSA Developed by Teens
In February 2011, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration challenged teens to create an original 15- or 30-second public service announcement (PSA) that showed how young people are working to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and promote mental health in their communities. The winning PSA, "I Am More Than Meets the Eye,” was made by a group of young adults and teenagers from Richmond, California. Inspire more teens to help their communities by sharing this PSA on your social media pages:
What will you do to celebrate National Prevention Week? Is your school or community participating? We’d like to hear about it in your comments.
November 30 to December 7, 2013 is the first national Meth Awareness Week. Sponsored by our friends at The Partnership at DrugFree.org and coordinated by the Meth Project, this event aims to increase awareness of the devastating effects of using methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a manmade stimulant that is sometimes made in basement labs from the cold medicine pseudoephedrine and various toxic chemicals like drain cleaner, battery acid, and antifreeze. Meth makes a person more awake and physically active, causes rapid heart rate, and increases blood pressure and body temperature. Repeated use causes your teeth to fall out and makes you pick at your skin until you have open sores.
Meth is nasty stuff, and teens get that. Only 1% of teens (8th, 10th, and 12th graders) used meth in 2012—reflecting a steady decline since 1999. The number of adults using meth dropped too: About 133,000 people tried meth in 2012, down more than 50% from 2002 to 2004.
This is all good news, but we still have work to do to prevent meth use. Meth is becoming more available, more pure (making it more dangerous), and less expensive to buy. The U.S. Department of Justice considers meth use a threat to this country because of how destructive it is.
To see just how destructive meth is, check out the Meth Project’s Facebook page for disturbing stories from people addicted to meth, as well as from their friends and family members. While some might consider such stories scare tactics (something SBB tries to avoid), they definitely show how awful meth can be.
Mean Girls…or Violent Girls? A recent national survey (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that more than one-quarter (26.7%) of girls age 12 to 17 reported engaging in some kind of violent behavior in the last year. Whaaat? There’s more…in this age group:
- 18.6% got into a serious fight at school or work in the past 12 months.
- 14.1% participated in a group-against-group fight.
- 5.7% attacked others with the intent to hurt them seriously.
So what does this have to do with drugs? The study also found that violence and drug use are linked: girls who engaged in violent behaviors were two to three times more likely to have binged on alcohol or used marijuana or other illicit drugs in the past month. Girls engaging in violent behavior were also more likely to report missing school and getting bad grades. To read more about the study, visit SAMHSA News.
SBB recently caught up with a few past winners of the NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award to find out what the teens are doing now. Not everyone has followed a science path, but they are all in college pursuing their interests. In this series, the winners offer advice for today’s high school students trying to figure out what to do after graduation.
Kapil Ramachandran, a native of Austin, Texas, won first-place recognition in 2008 as NIDA’s first Addiction Science Fair Award winner for his work investigating the biological basis of alcohol addiction. His research on “drunk” fruit flies allowed him to conduct tests to study how manipulating a specific protein in fruit flies affects tolerance for alcohol. This research can apply to understanding similar reactions in humans.
Kapil’s interest in addiction science started when he worked in a hospital emergency room. “I was in the ER and saw a kid die from narcotics overdose. That hit me like a wall of bricks. It’s a mental image that doesn’t go away. Now I have an insane kind of curiosity.”
He notes that in high school, he was incredibly lucky to study epigenetics, the interplay between genes and the environment. He worked in a lab at the University of Texas at Austin, then continued his lab research while studying biology and physiology at Duke University, where he submitted a research paper that is currently being reviewed for publication.
Kapil’s interest in addiction research continues. This year, he enrolled in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University where he hopes to earn a doctorate in neuroscience. At the Hopkins lab, he works with a faculty advisor studying how THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, affects fruit flies. He is trying to discover how THC influences processes other than by acting on cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body.
The Importance of Mentors
Because generous mentors helped Kapil at every step, he encourages high school students interested in science to allow themselves to be curious about a problem and go after it. Kapil found that other scientists will respond when they see your interest is genuine, even if it’s just working on small problems in biology class.
Kapil is committed to sharing his passion for science, and volunteers at an inner city high school in Baltimore through the Incentive Mentoring Program. While he tutors teens in math, science, and English, Kapil feels he is giving them more than just help with schoolwork. “It’s important for kids who are struggling to be surrounded by people who have the drive to learn, because it’s contagious. Science is not something that’s easy to do. But it’s gratifying like nothing else—it gives you an experience that helps you think in a different way.”
Last year, 14-year-old Shelby Marie Raye from Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida was looking through a teen magazine and saw an article that said "How To Be Popular in High School." She wondered what traits made someone appear to be popular or "cool."
Since she had a science class that required a science fair project, she decided to study that question like a scientist. So she surveyed hundreds of students in her school about what it means to be "cool." Her project, titled, What's In and What's Out: High Schoolers' Perceptions of Coolness, determined that in her school, football was considered to be the "coolest" sport for boys while cheerleading and dance were the coolest sports for girls. Over 50% of the students said that grade point average was not related to being cool, and that as teens got older they thought it was less cool to be in honors classes. (What's that about anyway?) She also learned that by the time boys turned 18, they thought it was less cool to drink, smoke, and take other dangerous risks than when they were younger.
Interestingly, more boys thought it was cool to have a girlfriend....than girls, who weren't as convinced it was cool to have a boyfriend. And what traits make boys seem cool? Boys said the coolest traits were to be funny and confident. Yet females thought being friendly and outgoing were the coolest traits.
To see Shelby present her work to the Director of NIH and other scientists, check out the video above. You can also learn more about Shelby's science project on NIDA's Web site.
BTW, NIDA scientists were so impressed with Shelby's project that they awarded her third place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and Shelby walked away with a prize of $1000—proof that being smart is pretty cool after all!
Since we’re at the end of December, it’s almost time for New Year’s Resolutions. Most of those are really hard to keep, right? (like commitments to exercise more or get straight A’s). Well, SBB is prepared to make a New Year’s resolution of another kind: to stay on top of the latest news and information about drug abuse and addiction and share it with all of you. After a great start in 2009, with more than 59 blog posts and nearly 40,000 unique visitors to the site, you probably know by now that you can trust this blog for scientific and accurate information about drugs and related topics.
What can we expect from NIDA scientists in the year 2010? Here are just a few of the questions researchers will be working on in the coming year:
- How can we best use the Internet to help people with drug problems?
- Can we really get a vaccine for people addicted to cigarettes, or to illegal drugs like cocaine, to help them quit and prevent them from starting up again?
- How does smoking affect bone health in teen girls?
- What is the best way to help people addicted to prescription drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin?
- How can we develop pain medications that are as strong as Vicodin but will not get you addicted?
- How can we use the part of marijuana that might work as a medicine and give it to people in a safe way?
So 2010 should be an exciting year! And SBB “resolves” to be right here to tell you about it. Happy New Year everyone—What’s 2010 look like for all of you?
Poet and playwright T.S. Eliot said, “A play should give you something to think about.” That’s exactly what happens with a new NIDA project—called the Addiction Performance Project. It illustrates the emotional toll drug addiction takes on people and their families and gets the audience to talk about it. At a recent performance, award-winning professional actors, including Debra Winger, performed a dramatic reading of Act III of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day's Journey Into Night. Based on O’Neill’s own family, this play shows how, over the course of just 1 day, a family can fall apart when addiction rules over it. In this family, the mother is addicted to morphine and starts abusing it again, and the father and sons, who are alcoholics, drink to cope with her relapse. By putting a human face on addiction, the Addiction Performance Project helps break down the stigma—or discrimination and judgment—associated with this disease. The Addiction Performance Project reading is followed by a discussion with scientists, doctors, and medical students on the challenges and opportunities in treating people who are addicted to drugs. Watch the video below to see snippets of the Addiction Performance Project, performed here by Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother) and other actors.
Worldwide, nearly 6 million people die each year because of tobacco use. That’s enough to fill about 60 average football stadiums.
Tomorrow is World No Tobacco Day, which is organized by the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative. This year’s theme is: Ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship.
The World Health Organization believes that tobacco is so deadly that all promotion of tobacco products should be outlawed. The United States already has set many limits on tobacco promotion.
In the U.S., it’s illegal to:
- Sell tobacco products to people under age 18.
- Sell cigarettes in packs of fewer than 20.
- Sell tobacco products in vending machines.
- Give out free samples of tobacco products.
Tobacco companies in the United States are banned from:
- Using their name in sponsorship at any athletic, musical, social, or cultural event.
- Using music or sound effects in audio ads—they can only use words.
- Selling hats and t-shirts with tobacco brand logos.
- Selling flavored tobacco products.
- Advertising on television.
Of course, more work is needed to keep people from using tobacco products. Research has proven that tobacco negatively affects the health of both your body and brain. What’s more, smoking doesn’t just harm smokers—it also harms everyone around them.
Comment on this post and tell us what you think. Do you think tobacco promotion should be banned completely? Do you know anyone who has gotten sick from smoking?
Did you ever wonder how scientists develop medications to help people stop smoking? High School Junior Ameya Deshmukh has been wondering about that since he was 7 years old. Because his parents work in science labs, he began learning about basic science from an early age. Now at age 16, he just won the first place NIDA Addiction Science Award at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
For his project, Ameya decided to search a database of 10,000 molecules to find one that will bind to nicotine receptors in the brain. Those are the cells that nicotine molecules attach to and then cause their addictive effects in the brain. If we can learn how to link up the right molecules with the right receptors—say, by developing a special medication with that would go right to nicotine’s “sweet spot” in the brain—then we could block the pleasure that people get from cigarettes. A lot of lives might be saved, since 440,000 people in this country die every year from tobacco-related diseases. This includes 35,000 who die from exposure to second-hand smoke. UGH!
Because identifying the right molecule can be like finding a needle in a haystack, Ameya used what is known as “rational drug design.” He first selected molecules based on previous research. Then he used computerized models to narrow the list of potential compounds even more. Finally, he tested the short list of molecules on human cells to identify which ones would bind to the receptors. With more research, Ameya’s work could point to new directions in developing medications to help people quit smoking.
When talking to the judges, Ameya stressed how important it was to develop these medications. In 2009, 20.1 percent of 12th-graders, 13.1 percent of 10th-graders, and 6.5 percent of 8th-graders said they smoked in the month before the survey. Unfortunately, many will get addicted. The hard part is quitting, as seen in the nearly 35 million people who make a serious attempt to quit smoking each year, with most starting up again within a week. So promising new medications are sorely needed.
NIDA’s Addiction Science award is given at the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which was in San Jose this year. For more information on NIDA’s 3 winners, see NIDA’s news release at http://www.nida.nih.gov/newsroom/10/NR5-14.html
Are there serious public health problems that you could address in a science project?
HIV newly infects about 48,000 Americans every year, but one in five with the disease don’t even know they have it. That’s why today, on National HIV Testing Day, we encourage everyone to get tested—it’s the only way to know for sure if you have HIV. If you do have it, the sooner you find out, the sooner you can get treated.
Drugs + HIV
You probably know how injection drug use (with needles) can lead to HIV infection, but did you know that other kinds of drug use can also increase your odds of getting the disease?
When you use drugs or alcohol, you don’t have as much control over your emotions or your common sense. You could make risky decisions that could lead you into an unsafe sexual situation, putting you at risk for getting HIV or another STD.
Drugs + HIV > Learn the Link helps you understand how any drug use could put you at risk for contracting HIV. You might be interested in a series of Webisodes that tell the story of how unhealthy decisions made at a party change a teen’s life.
Know Your Status Many health centers and clinics offer free or low-cost HIV tests. Go to AIDS.gov to find one near you. And spread the word—when you take the test, you take control.
If you were the producer of a crime show on TV, and your police officer character was a chain smoker, how would you write the scene where he chases a criminal down the street? A chain smoker would probably be winded, because of less lung room. So you’d show him panting and out of breath. As noted in NIDA’s Drugs: Shatter the Myths booklet, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use are often depicted in popular entertainment and media. And because TV and movies can influence what people think and believe, the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc., the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and FX have teamed up to host the 15th Annual PRISM Awards. This nationally televised awards show recognizes actors, movies, music, media, and TV shows that “accurately depict and bring attention to substance abuse and mental health issues, including prevention, treatment, and recovery.”
The PRISM Awards recognize people in the creative world who “tell it like it is,” showing the reality of important health issues and increasing awareness. Winners are chosen based on entertainment value, accessibility of the message about substance abuse or mental health issues, and scientific accuracy.
So who’s doing a good job of depicting substance abuse and mental health issues? This year’s PRISM nominees include the movie Iron Man 2 and the prime-time television series, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Drop Dead Diva, The Vampire Diaries, and Degrassi: The Next Generation. Nominees also include reality shows and documentaries such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, Intervention, MTV’s If you Really Knew Me, and VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
So, mark your calendar: the 15th Annual PRISM Awards will take place on April 28, 2011. To read more about the PRISM awards and to see a complete list of this year’s nominees, visit http://www.prismawards.com.
Knowing the health risks that come with using or abusing drugs convinces most teens (and adults) to stay away from them. But what if you don’t think certain drugs are unsafe?
In December 2012, NIDA released the results of the 2012 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study (involving 8th, 10th, and 12th graders). The findings show that fewer teens believe abusing marijuana and Adderall is bad for their health. This belief is contributing to higher rates of abuse of these drugs.
Over the last 5 years, current (past-month) marijuana use has gone up significantly among 10th and 12th graders. In fact, current marijuana use among high school seniors is at its highest point since the late 1990s. Daily marijuana use has climbed significantly across all three grades. The study also found that fewer teens now believe using marijuana is harmful.
However, the science shows otherwise. People who smoke a lot of pot risk injuring their lungs with the chemicals found in the smoke, and may also experience depression and anxiety. New research has found smoking marijuana heavily in your teen years and continuing into adulthood can actually lower your IQ!
Also in the 2012 MTF study, 12th graders reported increased nonmedical use of the prescription stimulant Adderall—commonly prescribed to people with ADHD. As with marijuana, fewer teens perceive that abusing Adderall is risky. If that trend continues, Adderall abuse will probably continue to increase as well.
Abusing a stimulant medication like Adderall may increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature; decrease appetite and sleep; and cause feelings of hostility and paranoia.
Perception of Risk
Studies have found that when teens think a drug can be harmful, they are less likely to abuse it. In the case of marijuana and Adderall, it appears that some teens don’t see the risk. Tell us: Do you think these drugs are dangerous? If you agree they are, what can we do to help people you know get the message?
Other notable findings from the 2012 MTF study:
- Most of the top drugs abused by 12th graders are legal substances, like alcohol, tobacco, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription drugs.
- Abuse of synthetic marijuana—K2 or Spice—remained stable in 2012.
- Most teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from family and friends.
- Alcohol use and cigarette smoking are steadily declining.
Check out this cool infographic to learn more.
These drug abuse estimates come from the Monitoring the Future study’s national surveys of approximately 45,000 students in about 400 secondary schools each year. View all of the 2012 data.
Are you a fan of Degrassi: the Next Generation, on Teen Nick? Well, I've got news for you. In the first show of the season, which aired last Friday, one of the characters got into trouble abusing drugs. I can't tell you much more than that, but I do know that when someone decides to take a drug the first time, it can be for many reasons, like to get a buzz, to experiment, or just to fit in. But, if you keep taking drugs, they can change the chemicals in your brain so that you may not be able to stop.
Degrassi star Jamie Johnston has recorded a special message about drug abuse that played during the show. But, hey, since you're here, why not view it now on NIDA's YouTube channel.
Here at NIDA, we can't learn enough about the brain. Other scientists are brain-obsessed too-there's even a Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to spread the word about the progress and benefits of brain research. This week, people all over the world will take some time to learn about the complex and beautiful brain. So, in the spirit of the week, here's some "brain bits."
Everyone knows that your brain helps you learn-it stores information and helps you put different pieces together to draw conclusions about all sorts of things: from math problems to history essay questions to whether you like the taste of tomatoes.
The brain relies on a bunch of chemicals called neurotransmitters to get messages from one part of the brain to the other. It's pretty amazing how each neurotransmitter attaches to its own kind of receptor-like how a key fits into a lock. Messages zip through the brain on the right routes thanks to this intricate process.
But drugs can really mess up the brain's traffic patterns. The chemical structure of some drugs, like marijuana, imitates the structure of a natural neurotransmitter. In this way, drugs can "fool" receptors, lock onto them, and alter the activity of nerve cells.
The problem is, drugs don't work exactly the same way as the natural neurotransmitters they resemble. So a brain on drugs sends messages down wrong pathways throughout the brain. Marijuana, for example, can alter concentration and memory. Other drugs can literally reset what the brain needs to feel pleasure so that, without the drug, a person dependent on it feels hopeless and sad.
As you can see, the brain is a complex organ, worthy of its own week of honor. Learn more about your brain and the harmful effects of drugs from these resources:
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.*
Drug Abuse and Addiction Blogs:
- Addiction Inbox | post
- AWARxE | post
- Breaking the Cycles | post
- DadOnFire | post
- FreeFromHell.com | post
- Indiana Prevention Resource Center | post
- Phoenix House | post
- The Partnership at DrugFree.org | post
- Recovery Happens | post
Health and Science Blogs:
- Dana Foundation | post
- The Faster Times | post
- Social Media Technology in Prevention | post
- Texas A&M Health Science Center | post
- Ultimate Block Party | post
- Wise-Life | post [post removed]
- FindYouthInfo | post
- NIH Office of Science Education | post [post removed]
- ONDCP: Of Substance | post
*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.
Attention: NIDA is accepting applications for the 2013‒2014 Teen Advisory Group!
Teens in grades 8‒11 are encouraged to join NIDA's Teen Advisory Group (TAG). TAG members share their thoughts and feedback about NIDA for Teens materials, the program’s Web site, and other components. Since 2009, the TAG has been critically important in helping NIDA reach teens with engaging information about drug abuse and addiction.
- Who: All teens in grades 8‒11 are welcome to apply.
- What: The TAG will meet online for 1 hour, four to six times during 1 year. TAG members receive a $25 stipend for each discussion in which they participate.
- Where: Discussions will be held in the evening via webinar and conference call.
- When: The TAG will start in September 2013 and end in August 2014.
- How: Email NIDATAG@iqsolutions.com to request an application. Applications are due June 30, 2013.
Are you more likely to text or tweet? Maybe you do both, since everyone is a multi-tasker now. Like texting while watching tv or checking email… Not to be left out, NIDA has recently started tweeting @NIDAnews . You can see some of our tweets below:
- 2.7% of eighth graders used cigarettes daily in the past month, down from 10.4% in 1996. http://bit.ly/4ziAlk
- Popping Pills – A Popular Way to Boost Brain Power? Wait and see what NIDA Director says on 60 Minutes: http://bit.ly/9AVfP9
- Sara Bellum Blog Tackles Energy Drinks: A Boost in the Wrong Direction? http://bit.ly/boa8KI
- Check out new NIDA-supported research on damage to the heart muscle as result of steroid use for body building: http://bit.ly/boX6gz
- NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow talks to Addiction Inbox blog at Blending Conference: http://bit.ly/a7egu3
- What’s this new drug “Meow Meow”? Find out in Dr. Steven Grant’s interview with AP. View the story http://bit.ly/a9tSmC
NIDA’s got a lot of company on Twitter: from Ashton Kutcher to Oprah and Selena Gomez to organizations like the White House, the NFL and TMZ. They’re all tweeting these days. You can access Twitter online or on your mobile phone.
So… Do you tweet? Would you ever?
Find us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NIDAnews.
Last year: Chicago.
This year: Los Angeles.
After receiving such a warm welcome from the SADD Nation last year, NIDA was excited to attend this year’s SADD National Conference in L.A. And just like last year, we had a booth and hosted a workshop—where we presented on NIDA’s PEERx prescription drug abuse prevention campaign.
The Prevention League
This year’s conference theme was “The Prevention League: Discover Your Power.” Teens, dressed as prevention superheroes, greeted conference attendees as they arrived. They helped set the tone for the conference, which mixed serious topics with fun activities—including a trip to Disneyland!
Through more than 40 workshops, motivational speakers, and skill-building activities, SADD members heard about some of the critical issues teens face today, like those related to safe driving, sexual health, and drug abuse. The conference helped teens recognize their power to rise above negative influences, while letting them learn from other student leaders about how to promote healthy and positive life choices among their peers.
PEERx: Peer-to-Peer Prevention
The conference theme and focus on peer-to-peer learning was the perfect fit for NIDA’s PEERx campaign. PEERx provides teens with science-based information about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse on the brain and body. The campaign encourages teens to engage in fun prevention activities with their peers.
We demonstrated some of those activities during our workshop to give the SADD teens examples of fun things they could do in their own schools or as part of community programs. We created a classroom CSI (using storyboards instead of actors) and showed the PEERx Choose Your Path videos, where teens could make choices for the main character and see how the story played out.
Thank You, SADD National
Thank you again, SADD National, for inviting NIDA to your big show. We were excited to meet so many teens who truly care about their peers.
If you attended the conference and dropped by our booth, please say hello in comments and keep in touch. We’d love to hear if you plan to host any PEERx activities in your schools. If you do, we may feature you here on the Sara Bellum Blog.
Sometimes we make jokes about our mental health, but serious mental illness is a real problem among young people in this country. Did you know that an estimated 4.5 to 6.3 million youth in the United States face mental health challenges? These might be about substance abuse, depression, bipolar disorder, compulsive behavior, and other mental health issues, including suicide. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of them do NOT receive the mental health services they need (like counseling and medicine) because it costs too much or they don’t know where to find help.
We need to fix this problem. First of all, studies show that students who need and receive mental health services are more likely to stay in school. This is important because about 11% of high school youth with emotional challenges drop out before finishing high school and are 1.6 times more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates who are not enrolled in college. Secondly, mental health problems can affect many other areas of life–especially social relationships.
This is why SBB is writing about National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, being celebrated May 3. Communities all over the country will be holding events to show how important it is for kids to have good mental health, just like having good physical health. The many activities include programs using the theme “My Feelings are a Work of Art.” Think about that—so how would you draw the way you feel? It’s good to be aware of your feelings and how they affect your behavior and the decisions you make.
Find out how you can get involved and help by checking out http://www.samhsa.gov/children/preparing_for_awarenessday.asp.
As always, keep yourself healthy. If you or a friend are having a hard time coping with everyday life, ask an adult you trust for help. Catching problems early can avoid worse ones later on.
There’s no better time than the upcoming Brain Awareness Week, from March 11‒17, to learn more about the most fascinating organ in your body.
The included image from the Society for Neuroscience, a partner of the Dana Foundation for Brain Awareness Week, shows some of the most critical parts of your brain.
Here’s what each part is primarily responsible for—and guess what? As the image shows, these are also the brain regions most affected by drugs of abuse:
Prefrontal cortex: This part is often referred to as the “CEO of the brain.” The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking and abstract thought, as well as many other functions like focusing attention, organizing thoughts, controlling impulses, and forming strategies for future action. The prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions of the brain to mature, so changes caused by drug abuse could have long-lasting effects.
Nucleus accumbens: Part of the so-called “pleasure center,” the nucleus accumbens is thought to play an important role in reward, pleasure, laughter, aggression, and fear.
Amygdala: Research shows that the amygdala has a major role in processing memory and emotional reactions, such as fear. The amygdala is part of the limbic system.
Hippocampus: Also part of the limbic system, the hippocampus plays important roles in moving information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
Ventral tegmental area: This structure is important in thinking, motivation, and intense emotions relating to love.
Scientists are constantly studying the brain and learning more and more about how different brain structures relate to addiction. We know drugs change the brain, but the effects of these changes are not yet fully understood.
Protect your brain. Make the healthy choice to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
What questions do you have about the brain? Let us know in comments. And Happy Brain Awareness Week!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (known by most people as the "FDA") has banned cigarettes with flavors that make them taste like fruit, candy, or clove. Which reminds me…real candy and fruit are soooo much better…but this ban does raise some questions—so, in case you were wondering:
Who is smoking flavored cigarettes? Studies show that 17-year-olds who smoke are three times more likely to use flavored cigarettes as smokers over 25. In fact, some people think cigarette companies add the flavors as a way to get teens to try smoking. The FDA says young people are twice as likely to report seeing advertising for these flavored products, so the cigarette companies are obviously putting the ads in places that are popular with teens. (Hmmm, pretty sneaky).
Why ban the flavored cigarettes? 3,600 young people start smoking each day, and almost all adult smokers (90 percent) started smoking as teenagers. If the idea of flavors encourages kids to smoke, many of them will keep smoking and face a lifelong battle with nicotine addiction (hardly worth it).
Do the flavors make the cigarettes any safer? No way! They are just as toxic as ever. In fact, the flavors might hide some of the bad taste of cigarettes, so in a way they are more dangerous.
How will they enforce this ban? The FDA encourages people to report continuing sales of flavored cigarettes through a special tobacco hotline (1-877-CTP-1373) and website. You can learn more about the risks of flavored tobacco products at www.fda.gov. Might even make a great report for health or science class!
What does SBB think about flavored cigarettes? The companies that make these flavored cigarettes think they are pretty smart, trying to make money off of teens who think "candy, fruit and clove" sound like fun. However, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.*
So don't be "tricked" into smoking by the lure of flavored cigarettes.
We get a lot of comments and questions about what drugs do to your brain, including chemicals that people sniff to get high. For example, Justin posted a comment on this blog once saying he always thought that if he “huffs” markers in small doses, just every once in a while, that it will cause little or no damage to his brain cells. Maybe or maybe not. The problem is that you really don’t know when something might be dangerous for you even if other people are okay.
What’s clear is that when you inhale toxic chemicals like those in markers, paint thinner, or computer duster, it messes with your brain’s wiring and signals, so you feel almost drunk or dizzy for a while—but if you keep doing it, you can have pretty scary side effects.
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, leading to hypoxia (low oxygen pressure in the body), which can damage your brain and other organs or even kill you. In fact, even one hit of a toxic substance can stop your heart, aka “Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome”—a tragedy that too many teens and parents have experienced. Some only come close, like Megan who stopped just in time.
Like Justin, maybe you weren’t aware of the potential consequences of huffing. Many teens and parents are not. That’s the point of National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Month. Every year this month is a chance to educate people about the dangers of huffing, while supporting those who have already been affected. So what can you do? Maybe you can start a conversation with a friend about inhalant abuse or pass this blog along to others. You can make a difference and could maybe save a life.
Why don’t you see how you and your friends do on this short quiz about inhalants?…see if you can get them all right—let us know how you did!
1. Inhaling stuff repeatedly can cause serious damage to the:
- A. heart
- B. liver
- C. brain
- D. all of the above
2. Huffing and using illegal drugs can cause brain changes that last:
- A. for minutes
- B. for days
- C. four days
- D. for years
3. “Sudden sniffing death” can be caused by…
- A. Acute odor receptor over-activation
- B. Inhaling noxious fumes from household products like glue, hairspray, or gasoline
- C. Smelling dirty socks
- D. Inhaling noxious fumes from your little brother
- E. Smoking marijuana
4. Damage from the use of inhalants can slow or stop nerve cell activity and reduce the size of some parts of the brain, including:
- A. Cerebral cortex (the thinking part)
- B. Brainstem (controls respiration and basic activities)
- C. Cerebellum (involved in movement)
- D. All of the above
5. Inhalants cause damage to the brain because:
- A. They smell really bad
- B. They prevent oxygen from getting to neurons
- C. They cause muscles to break down
- D. All of the above
1.d, 2c, 3.b, 4.d, 5.b,
How Many Teens Actually Smoke, Drink, or Do Drugs?
It’s natural to be curious about your peers—especially when it comes to things that we know can be dangerous, like alcohol and drug use. You’ve probably heard rumors of kids drinking beer at a party or may have a friend who smokes cigarettes.
You may wonder how many teens actually smoke, drink, or do drugs. It’s a question we hear frequently from teens. During NIDA’s 2011 Drug Facts Chat Day, students from the around the country asked NIDA scientists questions such as:
- “How many teens smoke every year?”
- “Has the number of people who abuse drugs increased or decreased in the past 5 years? And why?”
- “What percent of teens has tried drugs?”
- “How many kids are doing drugs?”
In December 2011, NIDA released the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, and it seems that more teens are making better decisions when it comes to smoking and alcohol use, but not so much when it comes to using marijuana and abusing prescription drugs.
Here’s a glimpse at the most recent trends in teen drug and alcohol use.
Cigarette and Alcohol Use at Historic Low
Teen smoking has declined in all three grades included in the study—grades 8, 10, and 12. Still, almost 19 percent of 12th graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use.
This decline shows that more teens realize the harm smoking does to your body and are making the decision not to start. Also, teens’ attitudes about smoking have changed. They increasingly prefer to date nonsmokers and believe smoking to be a dirty habit.
Likewise, among nearly all grades, trends over the past 5 years showed significant decreases in alcohol use—including first-time use, occasional use, daily use, and binge drinking. As with smoking, this decline may be the result of more teens understanding the risk of drinking alcohol and disapproving of this behavior.
Marijuana Use Continues To Rise
Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, marijuana use is increasing. Among 12th graders, 36.4 percent reported using marijuana at least once in the past year, up from 31.5 percent 5 years ago. This accompanies a decrease in the number of 12th graders who perceive that smoking marijuana is harmful. For example, only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent 5 years ago.
Of course, we know the risks: marijuana can affect memory, judgment, and perception, and it can harm a teen’s developing brain.
Prescription Drug Abuse Remains Steady
Prescription drug abuse hasn’t changed much since 2010. Abuse of the opioid painkiller Vicodin and the nonmedical use of Adderall and Ritalin, stimulants meant to treat ADHD, remained about the same as last year. Also, the abuse of the opioid painkiller OxyContin remained steady for the past 5 years across all 3 grades surveyed.
To drive this trend downward, NIDA recently launched PEERx, a prescription drug abuse awareness campaign that gives teens science-based information about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse on the brain and body.
When teens understand the health risks of abusing drugs, they do it less. So, tell us, how would you convince your peers that marijuana use and prescription drug abuse are harmful?
These estimates come from the Monitoring the Future Study's national surveys of approximately 47,000 students in about 400 secondary schools each year. The survey was conducted in classrooms earlier this year. View all of the 2011 data.
In May, NIDA announced the 2013 Addiction Science Award winners. Check out their amazing projects!
First Place: Screen Time and Teens
Zarin Ibnat Rahman of Brookings High School in South Dakota won first place with her project, The At-Risk Maturing Brain: Effects of Stress Paradigms on Mood, Memory, and Cognition in Adolescents and the Role of the Prefrontal Cortex. She explored how the amount of time spent looking at computer, phone, and other electronic screens affected teens’ mood, academic performance, and decision-making. Zarin found that too much screen time shaped teens’ sleeping patterns, which hurt their academic success and emotional health.
Second Place: Alcohol and Zebrafish
Emory Morris Payne and Zohaib Majaz Moonis of Bancroft School in Massachusetts won second place with their project, The Effect of Ethanol on Beta Cell Development in Zebrafish. Emory and Zohaib looked at the relationship between alcohol exposure and the risk for type 1 diabetes in zebrafish. They found that as zebrafish embryos were exposed to more ethanol, a pure form of alcohol, the worse their pancreatic beta cells functioned. Pancreatic beta cells create insulin and are important for preventing diabetes.
Third Place: Bath Salts and Fruit Flies
Alaina Nicole Sonksen of Camdenton High School in Missouri won third place with her project, Determining the Behavioral and Physiological Effects of Pentedrone-Based Bath Salts on Drosophila Melangaster. Alaina examined how two types of baths salts affected the activity, feeding patterns, and death of fruit flies. She found that many flies died from exposure to bath salts and that bath salts made fruit flies eat less and act dazed.
It’s hard to keep good news a secret. Some organizations think they can work “hush-hush” without us noticing, but at NIDA, we’re always on the lookout for people and places that are doing a new thing. So (drum roll please), let me introduce you to WyoCARE, the Wyoming Chemical Abuse Research Education (CARE) project:
WyoCARE is an organization that supports healthy living and substance abuse prevention in the state of Wyoming. So, what makes it so special? Well, WyoCARE not only provides free and interesting resources (like stickers, bookmarks, and magnets) on drug abuse and other healthy topics, its staff—along with a great team of graduate student and AmeriCorps volunteers—provide trainings, workshops, and consultations when they’re not busy sending out materials. It is this kind of “CAREing” that has helped them disseminate over a quarter million resources in the last three months!
This year, WyoCARE also displayed “NIDA Goes Back to School” campaign materials at the 2010 Governor’s Roundtable on Children’s Mental Health, an event held to thank everyone committed to improving children’s mental health. WyoCare used the opportunity to help educate youth and state leaders on the science of the brain, addiction, and drug abuse.
Think you have what it takes to CARE? Would you or someone you know quit smoking if it were proven that secondhand smoke was hurting your pets? Would you vow to keep a lookout for signs of drug activity in your neighborhood? WyoCARE’s resources can help you lead a healthier life and create a positive change in your community. Thanks WyoCARE!
OK, speaking of resources, we have a question for you—yes, you reading this blog post. NIDA wants to hear about how we are helping you (or how we could be doing better). For example, did you use information from our Web site for a science project? Or share it with a friend? We want to know—the good and the bad.
According to the Surgeon General’s report on smoking and young people, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes.
In March 2012, the Surgeon General launched a video contest encouraging teens to develop videos around the facts in the tobacco report. SBB announced the contest, and now we want to share the winners.
Grand Prize Winner (Ages 13–17 Category): “Tobacco—I’m Not Buying It Rap”
The Manatee Youth for Christ SOZO team from Bradenton, Florida, raps about the dangers of smoking and why some teenagers start smoking, emphasizing with the chorus, “Tobacco OH NO I Ain’t Buying It.”
Grand Prize Winner (Ages 18–25 Category): “You Don’t Smoke Cigarettes, Cigarettes Smoke You”
Ayyaz Amjad’s video features a young man who realizes that people who smoke may not be as in control as they might think.
Grand Prize Winner (Spanish Category): “El Tabaco y la industria”
A narrator describes the dangers of smoking as her friends hold up signs with selected facts on them. The video was created by Sarah Skipper, Karolina Almasi, Taylor Crews, Natalie Curtis, and Malorie McKinnon.
Check out all the winning videos, including the runners-up.
What do you think of the videos? Do their messages inspire you to make your own video or to think differently about smoking?
Never underestimate the power of a bright white smile. NIDA’s 2008 Monitoring the Future Survey found that the vast majority of teens—75% of high school seniors—would “prefer to date people who don’t smoke.”
According to scientists at the University of Michigan, “teens should take note that becoming a smoker will make them less attractive to the great majority of the opposite sex—a high price to pay.” You can say that again! Dating is hard enough already—why smoke cigarettes and make it even harder?
When the first-place prize was announced “you could hear the screams all the way down the hall.” That’s the word from Zac Lovett, Dae’ Vion Caves, Jordan Adkins, and Farrell Terry, who won top prize in the MusiCares® and GRAMMY Foundation's® Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest. Their prize included going backstage at a GRAMMY rehearsal on February 11, where they got to see Rhianna rehearse, we well as B.o.B., Bruno Mars, Janella Monae, Miranda Lambert—and they even got to meet Drake, the rapper who performed with Rhianna on GRAMMY night.
A long way from their hometown of Alton, Illinois, 18-year-old Dae’ Vion Caves and 16-year-old Jordan Earle Atkins flew to Hollywood with their mothers and teacher to collect their first place award, which also included a visit to the GRAMMY Museum and an afternoon at the famous Venice Beach. Two of their friends, Zac Lovett and Ferrell Terry, who collaborated with them on the winning song, also attended. SBB interviewed Dae’ Vion and Jordan in Hollywood, who both said they had big dreams and were not going to mess up their lives with drugs.
NIDA plans to hold this contest each year, in partnership with the wonderful Musicares® and the GRAMMY Foundation®. The 2011 music contest will begin in May this year, so stay tuned and charge up your creative energy. We will announce the winners during our 2nd National Drug Facts Week (October 31 – November 2, 2011). Everyone’s got a chance to win! Check out other SBB blog posts on the GRAMMY music contest:
Here at NIDA, we are fortunate to be led by a trailblazing female scientist, Dr. Nora Volkow. She has done brilliant and pioneering work in brain science and is even a great spokeswoman: She goes on TV all the time to explain the important work NIDA does in studying and preventing drug abuse.
But in some ways, Dr. Volkow is an exception. Despite the fact that more women than men go to college today, men still outnumber women in the sciences—by A LOT. In 2008–09, only 31 percent of the degrees and certificates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM, for short) were earned by women. Despite making up half of the U.S. workforce, women hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.
When they do go into the sciences, many women take a different path than many men do, and are more likely to pursue the life sciences (biology, genetics, or neuroscience, for example) than the physical sciences (like physics, chemistry, astronomy, and geology). It seems that women are more drawn to STEM fields that have a direct impact on improving the human condition through advances in health.
Gender Bias and Stereotypes
So, why do women continue to shy away from the sciences? One possible reason is the old stereotype that men are better at math and science than women. This inaccurate but still widely believed myth creates gender bias—preference of men over women—that can make it harder for women to enter STEM fields and discourage them from even pursuing those areas in their education.
The gender bias in sciences was confirmed by a recent Yale study. When Yale University researchers asked scientists to review the job applications of a woman and a man with identical qualifications, the scientists consistently ranked the male candidate higher and were more likely to hire the male—and to pay him more. The scientists reviewing the applications included both men and women, which means women showed gender bias too!
White House Initiative To Support Women and Girls in STEM
Another often-cited barrier keeping women from entering STEM fields is the lack of female role models in the sciences.
President Obama believes that supporting women in STEM is important to our country’s continued development and success. That is why the Office of Science and Technology Policy, together with the White House Council on Women and Girls, is working to increase the number of girls participating in the sciences.
The President is addressing the need for more female role models by appointing several women to lead science and technology efforts in our Government. A few of these talented women include:
- Lisa Jackson, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
- Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator
- Arati Prabhakar, Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
We’re lucky to have Dr. Nora Volkow as our female role model in science. We also believe women and men are equally qualified to be scientists and engineers.
Tell us in comments—How can we help other young women feel confident enough to wear the white lab coat?
In the U.S. military, servicemembers ask each other this question to make sure that they're ready and able to accomplish the mission at hand. If someone is "good to go," then they are alert, accountable, and prepared to do their job. Someone who is "good to go" will avoid mistakes and make better decisions.
One thing is for sure: you can't be "good to go" when you're taking drugs.
For you, the workplace might be school or your summer job. If you're not "good to go," it could mean a bad grade on your chemistry test or getting benched on your football team. But for our men and women in uniform, drug use threatens their ability to protect one another and defend our Nation. A lack of concentration or a wrong decision could put everyone in danger. It could even cost someone their life.
That's why the Department of Defense is taking steps to create the largest drug-free workplace in the world. Its zero-tolerance policy (PDF, 51.27KB) on drugs means that servicemembers will have the best mental and physical health necessary to do their jobs.
At the same time, many of our servicemen and women are young and need as much support as they can get. Just like when you had to move to a new school or find a new group of friends, life in the military can be stressful. The day-to-day grind of combat, the effects of injury, or being apart from family can cause people to be depressed. And depression can lead to drug use. Just like you, service men and women sometimes need help getting through those tough periods - using healthy ways to cope without turning to drugs.
The Real Warriors Program is aimed at wiping out the stigma associated with getting mental health care in the military. The campaign uses the stories of servicemembers who admitted they needed help and now are pursuing successful military careers. From October 23-31, the Defense Department will honor these real warriors during Red Ribbon Week, an event to raise public awareness about the negative effects of drugs on military personnel, civilians, and their families.
Now, more than ever, we need good role models. Whether you are serving in the military, working at a desk job, or going to school, don't hesitate to offer help to someone in need. When's the last time you asked someone, "Are you good to go?"
Do you have a personal story about the importance of role models and encouraging one another to overcome life's challenges? If so, please comment on this blog post - we'd love to hear your story! This is a guest post from Dr. John Ohab, host of the Defense Department's weekly science radio show, "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."
Today kicks off National Public Health Week, April 5–11, 2010. This means that governments, businesses, schools, and community organizations across the county will be promoting lifestyles and policies that support and improve people's health. That is, after all, what "public health" is all about—encouraging people to make good decisions about their health, such as quitting smoking or getting vaccinated, and making sure that our neighborhoods support healthy choices like designating drug-free school zones or putting in bike trails to help people of all ages get more exercise.
Here in the U.S., we are dealing with many important issues related to public health, including obesity, drug abuse, and HIV/AIDS, and there's still much work to be done. But what if it only took a few years to turn this situation around? What if today's teens could become some of the healthiest adults on the planet? That's the goal that National Public Health Week is inspiring us to achieve: "the healthiest nation in one generation." What does that mean for you?? See this video for some ideas.
Here are some ways you can get involved in public health:
- Organize a public health event at your school. Talk with your teachers, classmates, and friends about a public health challenge at your school and how a group of you could help resolve it. For example, if your school lunches are missing fresh fruits, you could organize a lunchtime smoothie session with healthy ingredients from your local grocery store.
- Join a public health event in your neighborhood, town or city. Is there a walk, run, or bike ride coming up in your area about a health issue that concerns you? Inquire with the organizers about teen involvement, and then round up your relatives, classmates, neighbors, and friends to participate or volunteer as a group.
- Go for a career in public health. Public health obviously involves doctors and nurses, but it's important to realize it also takes scientists, educators, communicators, city planners, politicians, and many others to research, plan, test, treat, raise awareness, and make laws to prevent disease and injury and promote health in society. This means there are hundreds of ways to be involved! For starters, check out the Disease Detective Summer Camp offered by the CDC.
- Lead by example and spread the word. When it comes to teen drug abuse, this is one of the most important things teens can do – for themselves and each other. Learning about drugs and their effects on the body, and sharing that knowledge with others, makes you part of improving the public health. Helping yourself or someone else resist drug abuse or overcome addiction are powerful experiences that can help you and others.
We hope you can find something healthy to do this week in honor of National Public Health Week. Leave us a comment and let us know your opinion on becoming the healthiest nation in one generation.
A child looks to his parents or caregivers for total support—from birth to adulthood. But what happens to a child when the parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol?
It’s estimated that 25 percent of youth under age 18 are exposed to family alcohol abuse or dependence. Research shows that children in this environment are more likely to develop depression or anxiety in adolescence and use alcohol or other drugs early on. Having a parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can lead to lifelong problems if the child or teen doesn’t get help and support.
February 12–18, 2012, is Children of Alcoholics Week, an event to celebrate the recovery of children of all ages who have gotten the help they needed to recover from the pain they experienced as a result of a close family member’s alcohol problems. The observance also offers hope to those still suffering.
Help is out there. Teens can talk to a school guidance counselor, coach, or trusted teacher. For those who attend religious services, a clergy member is also an option.
Teens may be reluctant to talk to an acquaintance about such a personal problem. Another good option is Alateen, a program that offers support for children of parents who are addicted. Alateen members come together in a free and confidential setting to:
- Share experiences and hope.
- Discuss difficulties.
- Learn effective ways to cope with problems.
- Encourage one another.
Another option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This service is also confidential, and counselors can help with substance abuse and family problems, in addition to suicide prevention. Find out more about Children of Alcoholics Week.
Earlier this summer, we reported that 21% of music festival goers admitted to using illegal drugs at a concert. Unfortunately, the tragic incident in New York resulted in multiple overdoses and forced the mayor of Randall's Island to cancel the last day of the concert.
Though Molly has been connected to electronic and dance music for years, it has recently gained popularity in mainstream music because of mentions by Kanye West, Madonna, and most recently, Miley Cyrus.
MDMA is a manmade stimulant that can dangerously raise your heart rate and blood pressure and even cause life-threatening dehydration—especially when combined with physical activity like dancing. Molly is a name for pure MDMA that comes in powder or crystal form. However, powder sold as “Molly” often is not pure. It is sometimes mixed with other drugs that can make an overdose more likely. Sometimes, it might not contain any MDMA at all.
People who buy and use drugs at music festivals have no way of knowing what they are really getting—or how it will affect them. It is important not to trust anyone trying to get you to take a drug. Just let music be your natural high.
SBB attended the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, and wow, what an experience! More than 20,000 people from all over the world came together in one place to discuss the progress being made in preventing and treating HIV and AIDS. Scientists, doctors, community activists, and many other groups all met to push for more support of AIDS programs. SBB was there because NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow was speaking at the conference about the link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. She said that many people who use drugs contract HIV through (1) sharing needles used to inject drugs (like heroin) and (2) doing risky things when they’re on drugs, like having unprotected sex.
Many creative people were there. They even made art from pill packets used to hold HIV/AIDS medicines, making the point that catching people early in the disease and starting them on antiretroviral medications can greatly lower HIV spread and help prevent the progression to AIDS. Also, “Methadone Man” and “Bupenorphrine Babe” made an appearance—a compelling way to remind people that effective medicines are also available for drug abuse, and that drug abuse treatment can help prevent HIV. It is an urgent problem. In some parts of the world people who are addicted to drugs and have AIDS are just locked up in prison—with no treatment for either their AIDS or for their drug addiction.
To learn about the connection between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, take a look at NIDA’s Learn the Link campaign at http://hiv.drugabuse.gov/index.html
Because addiction is a disease, it can be treated with therapy and, in some cases, medication. People can enter recovery from addiction, just like people can enter recovery from other diseases, like cancer.
Maybe when you think of someone who gets treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, you picture a middle-aged person who has struggled for half his life with the disease of addiction. That’s not always the case. Many teens and young adults enter treatment and recovery at a young age.
Take it from Ben Chin, who submitted his story to the “Youth and Young Adults” section of the website for September’s National Recovery Month health observance. Ben was addicted to alcohol by age 14—but he hasn’t had a drink since he was 19 (he’s 24 now).
In a video, Ben talks about how alcohol affected his life. “I missed a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I got arrested a lot. I missed a lot of school.” He also threw away a promising athletic future. “I lost the things that I cared about—my friends, and eventually, my family.”
Entering treatment and recovery, though, changed all that. Ben says, “Recovery has given me a new life and much hope for the future.”
In honor of National Recovery Month, take a moment to read and watch these personal stories from young people and adults in recovery.
Do you have a story about drug abuse or addiction? Consider submitting it here, which you can do anonymously. You never know who you might help by speaking out. Kristina Fenn says in her video, “My greatest fear before finding recovery was that I was the only person who had ever struggled with this disease. It’s never too early to get into recovery.”
As always, feel free to share your story in comments. We may offer you the opportunity to write a guest SBB post.
My name is Giselle and I’m from the enchanting island of Puerto Rico. This summer I’m doing an internship at the Office of Science Policy and Communications, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). I won’t have pristine beaches to visit, but while I’m here at the Neuroscience Center in Rockville, Maryland, I’m looking forward to learning about the science behind the brain, drug abuse, my body, and a lot more! I’m hoping to write a couple of blog posts about this so stay tuned. And by the way, cool scientists are blogging too!
Have you already visited all the sections of the NIDA Web site? If not, you should! It feels great when you know how your body works. Start learning!
This is a guest SBB post from NIDA intern Giselle.
A natural high comes from any activity that makes you feel good—but doesn’t involve drugs. Doing things you enjoy, like riding your skateboard or dabbling in photography, releases natural feel-good chemicals in your brain like dopamine, which regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure.
Natural High Contest
Natural High, a drug prevention organization, invites teens to talk about their natural highs and what they are doing to inspire others to pursue their own natural highs. Teens can submit a video or an essay to enter the Natural High contest. Winners receive $300 to spend on their natural high activity. One grand prize winner will be featured at the 2013 Natural High Gala in San Diego, California (includes airfare and lodging for a teen and a parent/chaperone).
The contest ends April 30, 2013, so review the contest guidelines and submit your entries soon.
Eric’s Natural High: Dance
In 2012, Eric Barrios won the grand prize for his video about dance. He used his prize money to take a dance workshop in Los Angeles. Winning this prize has helped Eric “further his natural high” and brought him one step closer to “achieving what he wants to do in life with dance and film.”
“I think the NH contest is cool because it gives a chance for someone to share their natural high nationwide! It gave me a chance to finally express how I feel about being naturally high.” –Eric Barrios
Tell us in comments: What is your natural high, and what would you do with the prize money if you won?
NIDA is not a sponsor of the Natural High contest, nor is it associated with Natural High.
Question: What happens when 10,000 people in recovery from drug abuse and addiction get together to celebrate their sobriety?
SBB was part of the team that went with NIDA Director Nora Volkow last month to march across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Recovery Month. Celebrated every September, Recovery Month honors the thousands of Americans who have kicked their addictions. Recovery Month is sponsored by government and other organizations dedicated to fighting substance abuse.
The event at the Brooklyn Bridge was an amazing experience. People in recovery came from every state. Some had been sober for only a few months, others for many years. You could see their stories on their faces, and many of them had been through a lot. But you could also see their hope that came from hard work. On this day, they all came together to walk across one of the most famous bridges in America, the same bridge that many American immigrants helped build more than 100 years ago to connect Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The bridge is a great symbol of hope and incredible achievement, since the technology behind its design seemed nearly impossible a century ago. It was so difficult to build that many people were injured and died during the construction - but it was eventually completed and still stands today. For the 10,000 people who had the courage not just to get treatment for their addictions, but to go public with their struggles to inspire others, their victory is a major achievement, like the bridge.
The Recovery Rally at the bridge was sponsored by A&E Entertainment, which produces the TV show Intervention. Counselors on the show work with families to help convince their loved ones to seek treatment for their addictions. Many of the counselors on the TV show led the way at the march across the bridge, along with Dr. Nora Volkow, holding a banner that says "A&E Recovery Rally."
If you watch the show Intervention, you might recognize some of the counselors in the photo.
An alcohol-free party, that is.
Every April—which is Alcohol Awareness Month—people take a moment to learn about the dangers of abusing alcohol. For those under 21, taking even one drink is illegal—never mind unhealthy.
Still, some teens choose to drink alcohol for a variety of reasons—boredom, curiosity, or just because it seems like “everyone else is doing it.” But the truth is, not all teens are drinking—in fact, over the last 5 years, the rates of alcohol use and binge alcohol use among teens have been on the way down.
What Can You Do?
Celebrate Alcohol Awareness Month by throwing a “booze-free bash” for your friends and classmates. To help get you started, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a Guide to Safe and Sober Event Planning.
You’ll need a place to have the party—like a parent’s house, a park, or a local YMCA—and you’ll probably need some help getting everything organized, so get your friends, parents, teachers, coaches, and older siblings involved.
Do your part to help keep yourself and your friends safe and alcohol-free.
Facts About Alcohol:
- Alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death among 12 to 20-year-olds (unintentional injury, murder and suicide).
- Those who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to have alcohol problems as adults than those who start drinking at age 21 or older.
Check out these resources about alcohol and the dangers of underage drinking:
NIDA is the largest supporter of the world's research on drug abuse and addiction. Our responsibilities include sharing our scientific findings with the public. Teens are one of our most important audiences. Figuring out how to present our research so that teens pay attention to it can be challenging. That’s where YOU come in! For years, we’ve been talking with real teens who were recruited for our Teen Advisory Group. The group meets once a month over the phone and online to share feedback on materials and resources NIDA is developing for young people. Now, it’s time to recruit the new 2012–2013 Teen Advisory Group. Interested? Here are the need-to-know details:
- What are Teen Advisory Group members expected to do?
Once a month, join us for a virtual session. We’ll provide you with a URL and toll-free phone number. Simply give us your honest feedback, ideas, and recommendations on the materials we share.
- What will Teen Advisory Group members get in return for their commitment?
Teens will be paid $25 for each meeting they participate in, and they’ll receive a certificate from NIDA at the end of the 12 sessions.
- Who should apply?
We’re looking for teens in grades 8–11.
- How do you apply?
Send an email to NIDATAG@iqsolutions.com to request the application.
- When is the application deadline?
Applications are due March 31, by 6 p.m. Eastern time. Interested in sharing your opinions and getting paid to help NIDA reach teens with facts about drug abuse and addiction? Apply today! Please share this information with your friends and encourage them to apply as well.
Rhonda started abusing drugs when she was 14 years old. She entered treatment for addiction when she was 19. Now at age 21, she has been drug free for almost 2 years, attends college, and enjoys time with her two children.
Can you guess what she says is the most important thing she learned during treatment and recovery?
Hint: It’s related to how she looks at herself as a person and how she views mistakes.
Watch this video in support of National Recovery Month to find out what Rhonda learned during her recovery:
For more thoughts on recovery, check out these videos.
Tell us, what questions do you have about recovery?
As the 1-year anniversary of the signing of the Tobacco Control Act approaches, new rules that let the Government regulate tobacco products are going into effect. Starting on June 22, cigarette packs may no longer use labels that say "light," "low" and "mild." This is because research shows that “light” cigarettes are no safer than regular ones. Also, tobacco companies will no longer be allowed to sponsor cultural and sporting events, distribute logo clothing, give away free samples or sell cigarettes in packages of less than 20—what’s known as "kiddy packs."
Another new law will prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 18, and vending machine sales of tobacco products will be banned except in adults-only places. We did an earlier blog about the ban on candy and fruit-flavored tobacco products, but these new laws will go even further.
This is great news for the public health and for teens, since tobacco products still account for 20 percent of all deaths in the United States each year, and tobacco companies keep trying to recruit new smokers. Every day 1,000 children become addicted to tobacco, and almost 4,000 try their first cigarette, according to John R. Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, who says the tobacco industry spends $34 million every day to try and hook new young smokers.
So, show the tobacco companies you can think for yourself. Smoking is very addictive, so the best advice is (yeah, you’ve heard it before): Don’t start!
Sometimes, the best entertainment takes you to an alternate world and helps you forget about your stresses for a while. Other TV shows and movies succeed because they are so true to life that you feel like the characters could be living next door.
Each year, the Voice Awards honor films and television shows that accurately portray behavioral health issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, trauma, suicide, and other mental health problems.
You can read full descriptions of the movies and TV shows—such as “Glee” and “Parenthood”—that were honored in 2012.
Accuracy Is Essential
Why is this recognition important? Many people (teens and kids especially) watch what’s onscreen and believe it to be accurate. This can lead to problems, like if a teen watches a party movie and starts to believe that everyone their age is getting wasted on Friday nights.
When shows reinforce myths about drug abuse or mental health problems, they can hurt already vulnerable people in our society. Examples include implying that all people with mental illness are dangerous, or that people who have drug problems are “bad”—inviting our judgment instead of our compassion.
So the Voice Awards honor TV shows and movies that work to tell the real story. For instance, “Parenthood” portrayed the complications caused by alcoholism, as well as how the disease affects the entire family. In the episode Forced Family Fun, the main character’s ex-husband talks to his therapist in rehab about how his addiction harmed his relationship with his children and how much he regrets his past his actions.
If you’ve seen a TV or film production released after April 15, 2012 that you think offers a respectful and accurate portrayal of people with substance use or mental health disorders, you can nominate it for a 2013 Voice Award. Let us know in comments which movies or shows you think deserve recognition!
That's what 17 year old Daniel Jeffrey Martin from Desert Vista High School heard from his mom one day while driving near a piece of the desert near his home town of Phoenix, Arizona. "Huh?" he asked. His mom, a forensic scientist (think: CSI), explained to him that when dead bodies are found in the desert by animals like coyotes, bobcats, and wolves, these scavengers will usually eat them—except for the bodies of methamphetamine users (proven by an autopsy).
Daniel thought this would be a perfect science fair project so he studied the records from the local county coroner's office. And sure enough—he learned that even scavenging animals don't want to go near the nasty chemicals left in the body by meth.
These photos from Daniel's science fair poster show the type of marks left by animal scavengers on bones. In his study, Daniel learned that the coroner found fewer scavenging marks on bodies that contained traces of methamphetamines.
The science project was so well done that Daniel won a Second Place Addiction Science Award from NIDA at the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. You can read more about his project at NIDA's Web site.
My name is Sarah and before my high school senior year, I spent a summer at NIDA as an intern with the Center for Clinical Trials Network (CCTN). Never heard of it? Neither had I. I discovered that the goal of the CCTN is to improve the quality of drug abuse treatment throughout the whole country by doing safe and interesting scientific studies with humans. By the way, human studies are called “Clinical Trials.” These are trials or tests done to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of different medications or approaches by monitoring their effects on large groups of people, like a big “clinic” full of patients, but in a research setting.
As the name implies, the CCTN works as a network that includes scientific investigators all over the country. These investigators work together to develop and carry out clinical trials to evaluate behavioral and medical treatments for drug addiction, and to discover new ways to make existing treatments more effective.
So what did I learn about clinical trials? Clinical trials provide the best standard for demonstrating that a certain behavioral treatment or medicine really works and is also safe for humans. In the area of drug addiction, there is a great need for safe and effective treatments that are tailored to the specific addiction, such as heroin, cocaine, or marijuana.
I also learned that drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition. It may be easy to break one cycle of addiction, but it is very difficult to keep the patient from falling into another. One analogy is to think about the obese patient who can lose weight in the short run, but over time experiences many cycles of weight loss and gain, without really achieving an ideal body weight.
In a similar way, the addicted patient will receive successful treatment to break the addiction, but will continue to have cycles of relapse, requiring further treatments. The addicted patient might have a relapse towards the initial drug, but it can also be for a new substance or a combination of substances (e.g. initial addiction to marijuana, then addiction to opiates, then addiction to opiates and prescription drugs). Thus I discovered the true goal of the CCTN is to promote the development of treatments, or a combination of treatments, that will not only treat the addiction, but will also prevent future relapses.
More on clinical trials
While clinical trials are a way to develop new treatments and advance the scientific and clinical knowledge base from humans who volunteer to participate, I also learned that the volunteers themselves can benefit from their participation in clinical trials. For example, patients with difficult diseases like cancer can participate in a clinical trial in hopes of finding a cure, or at least a more effective treatment.
For more information on clinical trials, NIH maintains a clinical trials registry known as ClinicalTrials.gov, which contains information on trials supported by federal funds. There you can find information about a trial's purpose, who may participate, locations, and more.
In 2011, at age 14, Grant Davis was recognized by NIDA and the GRAMMY Foundation for his song, “Just a Child,” a tribute to his older sister Kelly, who struggled with addiction.
Recently, Grant shared his story during a TEDx event at the University of Nevada. TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) and TEDx are a series of conferences designed to share “ideas worth spreading.”
Grant, now 16, says that as he prepared his TED talk, he remembered how he felt seeing his sister passed out on the floor. “I couldn’t get that image out of my head,” he says. “Heroin, Kelly’s drug of choice, is incredibly difficult to overcome. Every second of every day, I know she wishes she could go back and live her life differently.”
But Grant’s latest song, “What About Me?” focuses on another aspect of drug addiction—how it also affects the person’s loved ones and overshadows everything else.
Grant says, “At 10 years old, I experienced many scary thoughts about my sister’s addiction. My parents were wrapped up with helping her, and I kept thinking, ‘What about me?’ The pain was overwhelming.”
Singing gave Grant a way to release the pain he was feeling. “I began singing, first in the shower, then in my room. Through singing, I found the pain was nearly gone, and I could think clearly,” Grant explains.
A conversation with his mother gave Grant a new idea. He says, “I thought, I can’t be the only kid suffering. So I decided to start an afterschool club for anyone having troubles at home.”
Creativity for Positivity
Grant calls this club WAM, for “What About Me?” and sees it providing a creative outlet for kids who might otherwise give in to negative influences and peer pressure. WAM has three main goals, to help kids:
- Build friendships.
- Find their creative place in the world.
- Share their talent.
“The process of sharing and discovering your talent can have a genuine impact on self-esteem so that kids do not fall prey to drugs,” Grant says. Noting his sister’s continuing struggles, he observes, “It’s easier than having to fix a drug problem afterwards.”
Grant envisions WAM as a way for kids to find and share their voices in whatever form of creative expression they choose. “I do believe that anyone who wants to can fly.”
Tell us in comments: Do any creative pursuits help when you get down or go through hard times?
Last February, NIDA held its first "Covering Addiction" Roundtable discussion for college journalists. Fifteen students from universities around Washington, D.C. picked the brains of NIDA scientists and professional health reporters, asking them about careers in science and health journalism. The student journalists got tips from pros who have worked for ABC News, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post on how to write about sensitive health topics like drug abuse and addiction.
Overall, students said they got a lot out of the experience, but some said they would have liked more time for questions about addiction and the health effects of drugs. So to follow up, here are some answers to common questions about drug use in college.
-Is everyone using illegal drugs in college?
No. Many college students drink alcohol, but most of them are not using other drugs.
-How common is drug use in college?
It really depends on the drug. The most common drug used in college is alcohol (yes, it's a drug). A survey asking college students about their past-month drug use found that about 2 out of 3 drink alcohol, and about 1 in 5 students smoke cigarettes. Marijuana comes in third, with about 1 in 6 students smoking it in college. (Interesting fact: full-time college students actually use less tobacco and marijuana on a regular basis than people of the same age who don't go to college.) As for other illegal drugs, very few college students are using them. For example, fewer than 1 in 100 college students have ever used heroin or steroids.
-How do you know?
NIDA's Monitoring the Future Survey asks middle school students, high school students and high school graduates about drug use. If you want to see the real data for yourself, you can go to the Monitoring the Future website and look at all the 2007 results for college students (PDF, 2.13MB).
If you're studying for a journalism career in college, or planning to study journalism when you go, stay tuned! We'll announce the next college journalist roundtable here at the Sara Bellum Blog.
In April NIDA is having its “Blending” conference. No, this is not a conference about smoothies…So what does “Blending” mean to NIDA?
Let’s start back a little ways. First of all, doctors and treatment providers (the people who provide treatment to help addicted patients recover) don’t learn everything they need to know in medical school or college about taking care of patients. Scientists are constantly testing new ideas for improving treatments—but once they find treatments that work, how do they get them to the doctors and others who are actually treating patients?
Maybe in an ideal world, every doctor, social worker, or psychologist could read every good research finding in a medical or scientific journal and automatically know how to make it work for their patients. But real life isn’t that easy. A decade ago, it took more than 17 years to turn scientific research results into actual treatments used for real people! At the National Institutes of Health, scientists are working to change that, including NIDA scientists.
The NIDA “Blending” thing is part of this. We bring scientists together with the people who are actually treating patients with drug problems and “blend” their knowledge and expertise, testing treatments with actual patients and adjusting them to work better. The treatments that work the best are shared with others around the country, who are trained to use them. This “Blending” helps speed up the process of getting treatments that work to the patients who need them.
Here are a couple examples of new treatment ideas that providers will learn about at this year’s Blending conference in Albuquerque:
- New Treatments for teens and young adults who are addicted to opioids (drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin or even heroin). There is a medication called Buprenorphine that has been successful with adults and now research is showing it may work for teens.
- Treatment Vaccines. We usually think of vaccines as something we take to avoid disease, but vaccines are being developed that can help people quit smoking and quit doing illegal drugs like cocaine (stay tuned for more on vaccines.)
So if you are reading this, you now know as much about “Blending” as many of the people who will attend the conference. Congratulations! And keep reading this blog to learn what we are learning about better ways to help people who struggle with addiction.
When working out or playing sports, you may feel like you want to up your game. There are lots of sports products out there that claim to help you run faster, be stronger, or play longer—but be careful.
It’s important to make sure any sports supplement or “vitamin” you want to take is safe. The ingredients in sports products are not required to meet the same high standards as medications. This means it’s up to you to find out what’s in any pills, drinks, or powders before you take them.
Know What You Put in Your Body
In July, USPlabs, a maker of several sports products, destroyed $8 million worth of its sports supplements Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, after the Government said the two products might be dangerous. These two products had the stimulant dimethylamylamine (DMAA), which the Government warns can cause heart problems like shortness of breath and heart attacks. Stimulants are drugs that increase your energy and speed up your body.
In 2011, two U.S. soldiers may have died after using Jack3d. The Government is still trying to find out if that is true. The military has removed all products with DMAA from military bases to be safe.
But that’s not all.
- Companies claim DMAA is a natural ingredient, but researchers believe it is made in chemistry labs and added to supplements.
- In 2010, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned DMAA.
- As of April 2013, the Government had 86 reports of illness and death related to DMAA.
Do Your Research
If you are thinking about taking a sports product, do more than just read the label. Look into the ingredients and all the effects they may have on your body. Ask your coach if he or she knows anything about the product. A healthy body is the best body, so make sure you know what you are taking and that it is right for you.
There’s no magic pill that will make you a better athlete—only hard work can do that. Tell us, how do you improve your performance without using pills, drinks, or powders? Share by commenting on this post.
Many of us have strong opinions about athletes using steroids to short cut their way to being stronger or faster. But it’s not just us—it’s also the 30-plus thousands of coaches and schools who use the ATLAS and ATHENA models in their sports programs.
Exactly what are ATLAS and ATHENA?
- ATLAS works with young male athletes and stands for Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids.
- ATHENA works with young female athletes and stands for Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives.
Together, ATLAS and ATHENA have fast become the most recognized and effective programs for steering young athletes away from steroids and other harmful behaviors. Not surprisingly, NIDA supports and helps fund it. “ATLAS is the only program proven to work against steroid and substance abuse in young male athletes, while ATHENA is the only program proven to work in reducing eating disorders and other health-harming behaviors in young female athletes,” said Doctor Linn Goldberg, the head scientist of ATLAS.
These programs are so effective, that in 2007 the Washington Redskins joined forces with NIDA to help bring them into schools like yours! To spread the word about these programs, the Washington Redskins and NIDA invited students, coaches, and student athletic trainers to FedEx Field on May 3, 2010, for a day of hands-on training on steroid use prevention.
What did we learn about steroids, football, and healthy behaviors? Here are some questions teens from the Washington, DC, metropolitan area asked Mike Sellers and Edwin Williams of the Washington Redskins:
Teens at the event: What do you think about steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs?
Edwin Williams: They don’t make you a better player; they just change your look.
Teens at the event: Now that we know steroids don’t make an athlete, what do you think it really takes to be a professional athlete?
Mike Sellers: There is no secret ingredient, just determination. And being in great shape lets you heal faster when you are playing sports, which keeps you in the game.
Teens at the event: What do you eat?
Mike Sellers: What you eat makes you what you are; I try to eat lots of chicken, fish and vegetables.
Edwin Williams: I used to eat soul food like fried chicken, but now I’m eating healthier and using portion control.
Teens at the event: What motivates you to be healthy and a better athlete?
Mike Sellers: The love for the game!
Teens at the event: Playing high school football requires motivation for both sports and academics. How did you maintain good grades in school?
Mike Sellers: Dedication, you have to be able to absorb lots of information and then take it back to the field.
Edwin Williams: I graduated with a 3.4 GPA, and it was not easy. It’s about time management and working hard. You have to be on top of the game, have determination, self-confidence, be able to multitask and work as hard as you can. Always have a goal.
Want more? See what else the Washington Redskins are doing to help families in D.C lead healthier, more active lives.
Want to help? Ask your teacher, coach, or principal about bringing ATLAS and ATHENA to your school, and how you can help.
“Be More Than a Bystander”: Enter a video contest telling how you stand up to bullying
During October’s National Bullying Prevention Month, SBB wonders: Do you have sympathy for kids who bully other kids?
People often talk about how much bullying affects kids and teens who are the victims of mean-spirited attacks. Adults who were bullied as kids can vividly remember names they were called and times they felt humiliated. Kids who are bullied can experience many problems like stomachaches or headaches, depression and anxiety, and sleeping troubles.
But did you know that bullying also can hurt the person doing the bullying? Many studies show that kids who bully are more likely to use drugs, smoke cigarettes, and drink alcohol; have mental health problems; and get into trouble with violence later in life.
What’s not known is which comes first. As one researcher puts it, “Youth who bully others might be more likely to also try substance use. The reverse could also be true in that youth who use substances might be more likely to bully others.”
Whatever way you look at it, kids who bully need help too. And everyone can do their part to help end bullying.
Be More Than a Bystander
Even if you’re not the bully or the bullied, you can make a difference in your school and community by standing up and not letting bullying happen when you’re around.
Enter the “Be More Than a Bystander” Challenge by submitting a video that explains what kids and teens can do to stop bullying. Entries are due on October 14, 2012, so don’t delay!
For More Information
If you or someone you know is being bullied, or if one of your friends bullies others, you can get help. Visit StopBullying.gov for tips.
Share your experiences with bullying by leaving a comment!
Remember all the noise about the bad economy and how Congress was passing a "Stimulus Act" to help? The name of this bill is the "American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA)". The idea is to give stimulus money to government agencies, who can then send it out around the country to save jobs or create new ones. As a government agency, NIDA got more than $260 million through ARRA to support more research projects on drug abuse and addiction. Some of that money has already been used to support students who are working this summer in science labs around the country. Here are some other projects that ARRA money is helping with:
- In Cincinnati, 250 teenage girls will participate in a study that looks at how stress, depression, and smoking could affect bone health. Results could help educate girls about how smoking affects their bones, so that fewer girls will start.
- In New York, scientists will use NIDA's ARRA money to see if parents can be trained with online programs to help them communicate better with their teens.
- In Seattle, Washington, researchers will use ARRA money to figure out better ways to help college students hooked on marijuana to stop using the drug and focus on a healthy lifestyle instead.
- And in Augusta, Georgia, scientists like Dr. Beth NeSmith (see photo) will be looking at kidney damage caused by cocaine use.
These are just a few examples of thousands of projects that NIDA will support around the country using ARRA money. Since NIDA is just one of the 27 Institutes and Offices at the National Institutes of Health, you can imagine how many people in the U.S. are benefiting—both people working in the labs, and patients who will hopefully end up a little closer to a cure. The Sara Bellum Blog thinks that's a really "stimulating" idea.
The relationship between genes and addiction is complex. Researchers estimate that someone’s risk for becoming addicted to drugs depends both on their genetic makeup and on environmental factors, such as whether their friends abuse drugs.
NIDA researchers are busy studying which genes are linked to increased risk for drug addiction. For example, in 2012, a study looked at a gene that is tied to nicotine addiction and found that people with a “high-risk” variation of this gene had a harder time quitting smoking than people with a “low-risk” variation of the same gene. Generally, people with the high-risk gene took longer to quit smoking and were more likely to be heavy smokers than those with the low-risk version.
If researchers can zero in on the genes that may lead to increased risk of addiction, it might help doctors and other clinicians identify patients who would respond best to particular treatments designed to help them quit. For example, in the same study, people with the high-risk variation of the gene were three times more likely to be able to quit smoking if they used a medication than if they didn’t use one.
NIDA is also working to develop vaccines that would help protect people from addiction and drugs’ other harmful effects.
November 10th is NIDA's annual DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY! In case you haven't heard of it—more than 40 NIDA scientists and science writers sit down at computers and answer questions sent in live from high school students from all over the country. Last year, 11,000 teens sent in their questions! To actually ask a question on the CHAT your school has to register in advance. But even if you haven't registered, there's a lot of interesting stuff to read by just observing Chat Day, on November 10, 8 am to 6 pm EST. You'll see factoids and quizzes (test your "drug IQ") and links to other sites. And if you are curious to know what kids ask about, the transcripts from the 2007 and 2008 CHATS are also posted.
What do you think the most popular questions were? Last year teens asked a lot of questions about marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol (yes alcohol and cigarettes are drugs too). They also wanted to know what the "worst" drugs are, and what happens if someone who's pregnant uses drugs.
There were also lots of questions about the effects of drugs on the body, and teens asked how they could find help for friends who had problems with drugs. The most important thing to know about NIDA's DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY is that the scientists just want to give teens the scientific facts about drugs—no lectures.
So if you're near a computer (which you are if you are reading this!) take a look at NIDA's DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY webpage. See if the question you would ask is being asked by someone else. And next year, ask your teacher to register, so your class can post questions directly to NIDA scientists!
Talking rabbits who are always late, Mad Hatter tea parties, a grinning cat: enter the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s classic book of childhood imagination.
Since Alice was published in 1865, readers and critics have wondered about the author’s own state of mind when he created this “other” world in literature. So here’s the question:
Was Lewis Carroll high when he wrote his most famous books?
Alice’s adventures do sound out of the ordinary—and Tim Burton’s extreme take on the book in his new movie is getting people talking. But no evidence exists that supports the idea that Carroll wrote this story under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In fact, Carroll invented most of the Alice stories during a boat trip with a friend and the real Alice and her sisters before he ever put her adventures down on paper. He recited the story aloud as the others on the boating party rowed.
So, where did this idea come from?
Psychiatrists who introduced LSD into our society may have had a hand in starting this rumor—or at least the supporters of the 1960’s LSD subculture did. But in fact, LSD didn’t even exist when Alice in Wonderland was written! Besides, Lewis Carroll’s writing is much too imaginative and clever to be done by someone on drugs. He was an inventive man, fascinated by mathematics, puzzles, wordplay and games, some of which appear in his books.
“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice. That is what the story of Alice in Wonderland invites us to be. Tim Burton explained it this way in a recent interview, “The reason we did something with it is that it’s captured the imagination of people for a very long time. That’s why all those great stories stay around because they tap into the things that people probably aren’t even aware of on a conscious level.”
Read Alice again, if you’ve already done so as a kid or see the new movie. Just remember to keep a clear mind to get the most you can out of the experience. Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton sure did.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is betting that young people have something powerful to say about smoking. Teens 13–17 years old and young adults 18–25 years old are invited to develop original videos that feature one or more of these findings from the recent Surgeon General’s report on tobacco use and young people:
- Cigarette smoking by teens and young adults immediately starts a series of health consequences that include addiction, lung problems, asthma, and heart disease.
- Advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies influence adolescents and young adults to start and continue smoking.
- Use of tobacco products by teens and young adults shows signs of increasing after years of steady decline.
Submit a video by yourself or with a group of friends, and you could win up to $1,000!
Why You Should Submit a Video
Approximately 88 percent of adults who smoke cigarettes daily report that they started smoking before age 18. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in America, killing more than 1,200 people every day. For every tobacco-related death, two new young people become regular smokers. To keep their companies in business, tobacco manufacturers need new people to pick up the habit. This contest is an opportunity to tell them and others why YOU won’t be one of them!
The deadline for submitting a video is April 20, 2012. Individuals or groups can submit videos in English or Spanish. All submissions must be made through Challenge.gov. Go there to learn more and submit your video for the tobacco contest. Grand prize winners in each of four categories will receive $1,000. Three runners-up in each category will receive $500. Find inspiration for your video by checking out these resources:
- Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General
- Past SBB blog posts on smoking and tobacco
- Facts on tobacco and nicotine addiction from NIDA for Teens
- Facts on tobacco and kids from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
- Tips on quitting from former smokers
Recently, NIDA met with its Teen Advisory Group—a group of diverse teens from around the country—to talk about pop culture, celebrities, and drugs. All of the teens were eager to talk about how they react to drug references in song lyrics.
The conversation turned to Miley Cyrus and her song “We Can’t Stop.” Some of the teens expressed shock when they found out that the lyric “We like to party, dancing with Molly” was a reference to the drug MDMA—they had no idea, and it changed their opinion of the song for the worse. “We Can’t Stop” peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and sold millions of copies, so it’s possible that millions of teens are unknowingly promoting drug use by simply singing along.
Is that really a big deal? We think so. Music can be very influential in how we perceive our world. Songs have the power to change minds and hearts, transform our mood, and comfort those who have been hurt.
Lyrics With a Positive Message
Miley’s controversial song highlights the need for songs with lyrics that support healthy decisions. The 4th annual Teens! Make Music contest is your chance to write a song that will feature lyrics encouraging your peers to stay away from drugs. The GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares invite teens to compose an original song or music video that celebrates a healthy lifestyle or depicts a story about drug abuse.
You get to control the message in the music—and you might win tickets to see the GRAMMY Awards!
About the Teens! Make Music Contest
- Music must be original.
- You can submit an original song only or an original song with a video.
- Entries must be less than 4 minutes long.
- Entries must be submitted by December 2, 2013.
- 1st Place: $500 and two tickets to the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards
- 2nd Place: $250
- 3rd Place: $100
- All winners will be invited to attend the GRAMMY Awards Backstage Experience
And tell us in comments: How do you feel about drug references in songs?
Guest Blogger, Ethan Guinn, a winner of NIDA’s Addiction Science Award, describes how his interest in science (and video games) has brought him lots of exciting changes and opportunities.
As a high school student, my strong suit was always the sciences, so my senior year I enrolled in an advanced science class called Science Seminar. We were given the task to do our own research projects that we would compete with over the next year. I decided to do a project on video game addiction in adolescents. This idea came from observations of “addictive” behavior in myself as well as many of my friends with regard to our video game playing; I wanted to see if there were more people in our age group experiencing the same or similar problems.
I created a survey to test the prevalence of pathological video game playing in adolescents 12-18. The survey was also used to assess the negative effects that pathological video game playing may or may not cause. My results proved to be quite interesting and when I felt I had a good enough sample, I wrote a paper and created a presentation board to compete with in future science fair competitions. Judges also must have felt my results were interesting because I won every fair I competed in throughout Oklahoma.
After winning the 2008 Oklahoma State Science Fair I was sponsored to go to the 2008 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta to compete with over 2,000 projects from 53 countries. Here I was awarded a 2nd place special award given by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). I was flown to Washington, D.C., two times to present my project to many NIDA researchers as well as to the director of National Institutes of Health (NIH). After these great honors, things began to settle down and I started college. So my project was put on hold for a while.
Two years later, I was asked by Dr. Michael Rich of the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Children’s Hospital, Boston, to intern at CMCH over the summer to try and publish my project. I accepted the offer, surveyed many more students, obtained confirmation of a research grant provided by NIDA, and set off for Boston.
My time spent in Boston was one of the most exciting times of my life. I was on my own in a city very far and very different from my own. But the staff at CMCH took me under their wing and taught me a tremendous amount about the details behind proper research and analysis techniques. I feel that in the 3 months I spent at CMCH, I may have learned more about the scientific process than all of my years as a science student. And to top it all off, I was able—with a lot of help from some great mentors—to finish preparing my project for journal submission, turning it into a manuscript that we hope will be worthy of publication.
For more on Ethan’s project and a video of his presentation at NIH, visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/sciencefair/ScienceFair2008.html
In 2010, Joey Yagoda of Great Neck, NY, wondered why students cut classes when it seemed like such a risky thing to do. To answer the question, he surveyed classmates and analyzed their responses. His analysis, “Risky Business: What Cognitive Factors Influence Risk Taking in the Academic Setting?” revealed that most students cut class because they believe “everyone else does it.”
Now, as a junior at Yale University, Joey’s taking his experience in behavioral research to the next level. With an interdisciplinary major in Ethics, Policy, and Economics, he’s focusing in on a field called decision science, which tries to answer the question, how can understanding the processes of decision-making, whether it’s by individuals, organizations, or government, become a tool to create better public policy?
Discovering Lessons for Life
Completing his science fair research project and winning a national award helped Joey discover what he enjoyed doing. “It’s hard to know what you’re interested in [when you’re in high school],” Joey explained. “The experience to meet with NIDA gave me a ton of insight, where I was able to meet with top scientists and help fund my college experience.”
Joey’s studies have led to even greater opportunities, including a summer internship with a company in New York that looks at large-scale economics modeling and an undergraduate fellowship with top researchers in child development. The fellowship gave him the chance to visit with leaders in public policy in Washington, DC, to learn how research affects policy. “Research has meant so much to me,” Joey said. “It gives you a skill set to bring into college and, later, a professional environment.”
His advice to high school students still trying to figure things out: “Explore the global world. Once you get excited about something, follow it. It’s really a cool time to be growing up.”
What are your biggest questions about drug abuse? What words come to mind when you think about addiction?
We took the transcript from the morning session at NIDA's 2008 Chat Day and used it to make this "word cloud." The biggest words are the words that were used most often in the conversation between teens and NIDA scientists—like drugs, school, and high. There were lots of questions about specific drugs, including marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco, and also about how to find help if you're worried that you or a friend might have problems with drug abuse or addiction. If you look closely you can spot NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow, who was answering questions online with kids, and some schools that participated in Chat Day, like Rockville High in Maryland and Yonkers High in New York. It's kind of cool to see a conversation between scientists and teens all summed up in a picture like this! You can read frequently asked questions from NIDA's Chat Day. And you can make your own word cloud pictures using any website or text at www.wordle.net.
My name is Yamini Naidu and I am a sophomore at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton, Oregon. I have been working on a science project about Methamphetamine (METH) addiction for the past two years, beginning in the summer of 2009. To those who read this blog, I wanted to share my research experience on METH so you could learn about the great potential for biochemistry that exists in the world of drugs and addiction. I received guidance for this project from the Oregon Health and Science University, the Portland American Chemical Society, and my high school chemistry and biology teachers. My research focuses on developing a treatment for METH addiction through computer modeling.
I was inspired to do this science project because I have had an interest in the brain and in neurology ever since my uncle passed away from stroke as a complication of heart disease. I was intrigued by the fact that METH can cause strokes in young abusers by a process still unknown to science. I hope that my research will not only help in the treatment of METH addiction but also in the treatment of stroke. At present, there is no effective treatment for controlling METH craving during withdrawal and abstinence. The goal of my research is to find or create a small molecule that can potentially block METH from binding to a special activation site (called Site I). Site I is located on a receptor protein in the brain called hTAAR1 (human Trace Amine-Associated Receptor 1). METH normally binds to this receptor like a key fits a lock – only a key with that shape can fit in the TAAR1 lock.
While experimenting with computer models, I discovered two new activation sites (which I call Sites II and III) on the receptor protein. I predicted that certain chemicals that prefer to bind to these new sites can change the shape of the receptor, making it impossible for METH to stick. If the lock changes, the old key can’t fit! So, guided by the computer-generated 3D structures of the two new TAAR1 binding sites, I designed new compounds and verified by computer that they would match the shape of the new activation sites. These new compounds may be preferred over others because their chemical structures and shape give them a stronger potential to bind to the receptor. The Oregon Health and Science University has filed a patent application on my discovery of the two binding sites and my invention of the novel compounds. My future goals are to synthesize and evaluate the compounds that I designed as potential new medication leads in laboratory trials and eventually in human trials.
I first presented my project at the regional Central Western Oregon Science Expo. Several expos and science fairs later, I was selected by Intel NWSE to represent the state of Oregon at ISEF as a finalist, where I competed with 1,500 high school student finalists from around the country and world. At ISEF, I was awarded the First Place Award of $3,000 in the biochemistry category. In addition, I was invited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to give a talk on my research project in Washington, DC, this August. I have received recognition and rewards from many different organizations for my research, and I am happy now to share my great experience with more people.
Facebook isn’t the only Web site that gets a makeover now and then.
Have you noticed that the Sara Bellum Blog and NIDA for Teens have a new look? And it happened just in time for the 2013 National Drug Facts Week, with its 500+ exciting events aimed at shattering the myths about drugs.
93% of teens who use social media use Facebook.
Best of all, teens guided and inspired the new design! This past year, we worked with the NIDA Teen Advisory Group, or TAG, to make sure the new site would be appealing.
Some of the new features include:
- New logo: TAG members helped select a new logo from seven designs.
- New images: Teens recommended using engaging images that included real people.
- Home page poll: The TAG also suggested that we add interactive features to the home page to draw visitors into the site.
75% of teens use a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device to access the Internet.
We did more than just update the design of NIDA for Teens. We also made sure that the new site would look good on all screen sizes, like cellphones and tablets.
How did we do? What do you like about the new design? Do you have any suggestions? Tell us in comments.
NIDA's annual DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY, held November 10, was a huge success. The computer-filled room where it happened vibrated with excitement, as more than 40 NIDA scientists eagerly tried to answer as many questions as they could. And questions they got. Teens from around the country sent in some 13,000 questions about drugs—wow, so nice to hear from you!
So what was different about Chat Day this year? Well for one, there seemed to be twice as many questions on marijuana. Maybe that's because the news lately is full of talk about marijuana (how confusing—some adults say it's bad for you, and others say it can be used as a medicine!). If you want to know how our scientists answered these questions, check out the CHAT DAY transcript, coming soon to http://www.nida.nih.gov/chat/.
What happens with the questions we didn't have time to answer? In the next few days, we will be reviewing all of the questions so we can learn more about what teens want to know about drugs. We're planning on adding what we find out to our teen Web site and we will blog more about it, too. If you think DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY sounds like fun, ask your school to sign up for next year. Schools will be able to register this summer. We'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, here's a list of some topics and the percentage of kids who asked about them this year.
30%: General questions (like "What's the worst drug?" or "Why do kids take drugs?")
20%: Marijuana 10%: Nicotine
8.5%: Illegal street drugs like cocaine, meth, LSD, PCP, and ecstasy
5.0%: How do I get help for a friend or family member?
< 3%: Steroids, Inhalants, Rx Drugs, Pregnancy (questions like "Are drugs bad for the baby?")
Ok, so what would you or your friends have asked about?
Meet the NIDA Teen Advisory Group. This is a group of real teens who help NIDA craft messages, programs, and materials for other teens. Have you downloaded any of our t-shirt designs, commented on this blog, or watched our videos? These features—and the entire NIDA for Teens Web site—were all influenced by real teens.
We at NIDA believe that the best way to learn how to talk to teenagers is to actually talk with real teens. This is why teens were full design partners when NIDA first launched the NIDA for Teens Web site back in 2003. And today, the NIDA Teen Advisory Group meets over the Internet once a month to tell us what they like—and don’t like—about new stuff we’re creating for you. Members of the Teen Advisory Group are from all over the United States, from California to Maine. They get a sneak peek at NIDA’s ideas for new ways to share the truth about drugs. Whether it’s a person in a video, the color of a download, or a single word—the Teen Advisory Group is not shy to say they love it or hate it. They’re brutally honest, and we like that.
“It is a great feeling when you know your opinions are actually wanted and respected,” said Ashlyn, 15, a member of the Teen Advisory Group from Maryland. “NIDA isn’t just saying ‘Drugs are bad, don’t do drugs!’ They have real scientific proof. They are explaining to people my age and everyone how drugs affect you, how to avoid illicit drug use and abuse, and more.”
Right now, membership into the Teen Advisory Group is full, but we also have an online workgroup that often provides feedback on materials via email. Please let us know if you are interested in joining the online workgroup by contacting us, and leave a reply below to let us know how you think we’re doing.
The death of Whitney Houston left America wondering about the emotional well-being of her daughter Bobbi Kristina after such a sudden, serious trauma. Traumatic events can affect your mental health and lead to serious problems later in life. This holds true even if the trauma happens at an early age—as young as 18 months old!
Traumatic experiences can include a number of things, such as the death of a loved one, a car crash, or a natural disaster like a hurricane. Trauma also can result from experiences that take place over a long time, like having a parent with a drug addiction, or experiencing bullying or family violence. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, so it can be hard to know who may need professional help to cope.
The good news is that—with help from families, teachers, counselors, and the community—young people can get well.
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
On National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day—May 9, 2012—communities and organizations across the country will help people understand how important it is to take care of children’s mental health. People will share the message that, with the help of caring adults, young people can recover from traumatic experiences and lead full and productive lives.
How Trauma Affects the Brain
Studies on how young people respond to stress show structural changes in the brain that, for some, can lead to problems like depression, anxiety, aggression, acting out, and drug abuse.
Hear Real Stories On May 9, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. eastern time, you can watch a Webcast at samhsa.gov/children about young people who have successfully recovered from a traumatic event. They will be accompanied by their “Hero of Hope”—the person who has supported them through their challenges.
You can participate by commenting on Facebook and tweeting during the Webcast using the hashtag #HeroesofHope.
Help Raise Awareness
A youth group in North Carolina is planning a “flash mob” for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Last year, we suggested drawing your emotions on paper to increase awareness of your feelings and how they affect your behavior. What are some other ideas to help raise awareness about the importance of your mental health?
Gili Rusak is a junior in high school. She won an Honorable Mention 2013 Addiction Science Award. Her project explored the characteristics of teens who use Twitter and how Twitter can be used to spread prevention messages among teens. After receiving her award, she told the writers of the Sara Bellum Blog about herself and her winning project.
How did you start doing addiction science research?
I began this research with a mentor who pointed me in the general direction of doing research on social networks, especially Twitter. My brother also encouraged me to begin research in the computer science and data mining field.
What inspired you to start addiction science research?
The thing that inspired me to start this research was that I personally use Twitter and Facebook. I saw these online social networks as a great part of my own life and the lives of students around me. Since social media is such a vital part of teenagers’ lives today, I believed that there could be many positive applications that could come out of studying this age group. Additionally, after conducting a review of the literature, I found that there were no papers that provided statistics about teenagers on Twitter.
What was the most challenging part of doing the research you submitted to the Addiction Science Awards?
For me, the most challenging part of this project was coming up with ideas of what to study and analyze, since my mentor let me make those decisions by myself. To help me, I read a lot of literature on my subject and used similar techniques to those others have used for data analysis on Twitter. I conducted most of my research, wrote all the data collection codes, and created all the analyses by myself.
Do you plan on studying science and continuing research in the future?
I plan on continuing this research, especially looking further into Twitter as a platform to prevent drug use.
In college, I plan on studying science and continuing research because it really intrigues me to study something that has never been studied before. I will probably study computer science, some of which I used for this project.
Do you have any recommendations for high school students interested in doing their own research?
I would recommend that high school students who are interested in research go after something they are passionate about, because when you do research, you have to be willing to commit time and thought to it.
Hello! I am just back from speaking at a news conference about NIDA’s 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF)—a big crowd of reporters showed up to hear the latest numbers with regard to teens and drug use. I wrote about MTF last year, remember? To remind you, MTF is an anonymous survey of more than 46,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders around the country. The survey measures drug and alcohol use. It also assesses teens’ attitudes about drugs by asking these questions: “Do you think drugs are harmful?” “Do you disapprove of drugs?” And… “How available are they?” This year we had some surprising changes that have me worried.
For one thing, marijuana use is going up, especially among 8th graders. The survey also showed that fewer teens think marijuana is harmful. This is one of the biggest drug myths out there. Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 11 people who use marijuana even once will later become addicted to it. AND, the younger people start, the more likely this will happen. Therefore, I am especially concerned by survey results showing that daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grades, so that in 2010, 6.1 percent of high school seniors, 3.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 1.2 percent of 8th-graders were daily marijuana users.
In some cases it looks as if marijuana is becoming more popular than cigarettes. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes. The good news is there are still a lot of wise teens who stay away from both marijuana and cigarettes. Research shows that these kids will be more successful in school, and in life.
(note: Video is from 2009)
The MTF Survey also tells us that abuse of prescription drugs remains high. That is when you use a medication not prescribed for you or in a way not intended—such as taking ADHD drugs before a test or taking a pain reliever to get high. In fact, 6 of the top 10 drugs abused by 12th-graders in the past year were prescribed or purchased over- the- counter. Prescription pain relievers (opioids) are a particular problem, with many more overdoses occurring than in the past.
NIDA would like to hear your feedback—why do you think more teens are using marijuana, and fewer are disapproving of its use?
From proving that scavengers in the desert won’t touch the remains of creatures that have died from meth poisoning to studying medieval history, Daniel Martin’s post-high school experiences have not followed any predictable pattern. He came up with the research project that won him a NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award after asking his mother, a forensic scientist, whether the myth about meth was true. She encouraged him to look for answers.
Now a junior at Pomona College, Daniel’s college career is still a lesson in exploration and self-discovery. “When I got to college, I started thinking about what I like doing and how I could understand the world. I have always been drawn to history as another explanation of the world [versus science]. Medieval History was my professor’s specialty, based on the classics—the literature of Greece and Rome and the study of religion, history, theology. So I was the first student who embarked on the new major he created: Late Antique Medieval Studies.”
Discovering Life Lessons
Daniel’s unique path included taking Islam during his first 2 years in college and becoming involved in community-building projects and leadership development on campus. “Enjoy the simple things about college life: meet lots of people and learn what their experiences are. Even if some activities don’t feel productive, you just need to do it.”
Of course, it’s rare to find job descriptions looking for Medieval Studies majors. “When I had to decide on a career path, I thought what I would like to do is teach and inspire a love of learning in others. But Education isn’t a major at my college, so I’m hoping to do a joint graduate program in Education and Law to allow me to do any job I want—teach high school history, for example, or English. I could even teach science and, I hope, inspire other students to do what they love—to be the scientists, historians, or mathematicians of the future.”
That's what a lot of people were asking at the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno a few months ago. Two 16 year olds in San Antonio, Texas, worked together to try and find out. Keystone High's Sehar Anjum Salman and Jada Nicole Dalley showed that third hand smoke—all the toxic chemicals left behind on furniture, car upholstery or clothing after the cigarette smoke floats away—produces as many mutations in newborn fruit flies as second hand smoke—when someone blows their cigarette smoke near you and you breathe it in.
These photos taken by Jada and Sehar show some of the fruit flies they used for their study. Different genetic mutations can affect the color and shape of the flies' eyes, the color of their bodies, the shape of their wings, the number of bristles they have, and many other features. Compare the normal fruit fly (left) with the mutant fruit fly (right) - do you see a difference? (Hint: the mutant fruit fly is probably going to have some trouble flying).
Sehar and Jada won a First Place NIDA Addiction Science Award at the Super Bowl of science fairs for cleverly showing the dangers of third hand smoke—something scientists don't know a lot about. It makes you think twice about hanging out with smokers, even if they're not lighting up! For more information on Sehar and Jada's project, see NIDA's Web site.