There are lots of really cool features on the newly updated PEERx Web site. Have you seen them? Check them out here. From unique downloadable images that you can iron right onto T-shirts or print onto stickers, to the new Choose Your Path video that puts YOU in the driver's seat to decide what happens next, to the Activity Guide full of fun things you can plan in your school or community group—there is something for everyone!
So now we want to know, what is your favorite feature on the PEERx Web site? Do you like to download cool designs, choose a path in a video activity, or create your own stories?
To answer the question, you can either write your response in the "Leave a Reply" box below, or send us a message. As always, we read all comments and consider all feedback.
Don't forget that you can always respond to questions we've asked before, so comment away! We value your feedback and look forward to hearing from you.
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.
NIDA scientists aren’t the only people on a mission to shatter the myths about drug abuse among youth. SBB caught up with teens at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington at the Germantown, MD, branch and asked them to share what they have done recently to educate members about drug abuse.
Here’s a quick peek at some events that Keystone Club members held during November 2011.
- To fit the spirit of Halloween, they passed out lollipops with drug abuse facts and messages, such as “Never take a prescription that is not your own.”
- They coordinated a “drug facts quiz” that gave other club members a chance to win prizes.
- They hosted a visit from NIDA Communications staff and learned about prescription drug abuse and the new, online PEERx resources, including the interactive Choose Your Path videos.
- They held a scavenger hunt to find drug facts questions hidden around the club. Correct answers earned a prize.
With a little planning and help from their advisor, the Keystone members held several fun and educational events.
“I was impressed greatly by the way our teens took initiative and created a project that spanned the entire month of November,” said Evelyn Kyere, the teen director. “They worked together to ensure that the impact went beyond sharing information with their teen peers. They recognized that it’s never too early to prepare children to make decisions that promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Inspired? Check out the PEERx Activity Guide for easy event ideas and instructions. And let us know if your school or community group held a drug abuse prevention event recently—you could get a shoutout on the Sara Bellum Blog!
Lots of people are prescribed prescription drugs like OxyContin or Vicodin to help with pain from an injury or surgery. When taken as prescribed, these medications are safe; but when abused, they can be highly addictive and dangerous—even deadly.
In the video, “Get Back in the Game: Use Painkillers Safely,” NIDA scientists Dr. Cindy Miner and Dr. Joni Rutter describe what can happen when a person abuses painkillers. What is considered prescription drug abuse? Here are some examples:
- Taking someone else’s prescription
- Taking more than prescribed for you, or for a reason other than intended
- Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs
To learn more, take a look at the materials in NIDA’s PEERx initiative. Prescription drug abuse is actually a serious public health problem in this country, and is growing in teens. You can help turn it around by raising awareness among your friends and family. Prescription drug abuse IS drug abuse, period.
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!!!
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!
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.
Did you know the prescription drug abuse problem in America has reached what the White House calls “epidemic proportions?” To help teens understand what prescription drug abuse can do to the brain and body, NIDA has created a PEERx Web site containing science-based information about the problem.
The PEERx Web site also offers free downloads, including iron-ons to make your own t-shirts and accessories, stickers, posters, buddy icons, and other cool stuff. So, express yourself and help spread the word, too.
Share this site with your friends, and let us know which downloads are your favorites. NIDA wants to know what works or doesn’t work for getting important health information to teens. Tell us what you think by submitting a comment in the “Leave a Reply” box below, or by sending us a message. We want to hear your voice!
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!
There’ve been lots of headlines lately about the dangers of prescription drug abuse—like taking a friend’s.
From this positron emission tomography (PET) scan, you can see how natural dopamine levels are different in people with and without ADHD. The scan on the left shows the brain of someone without ADHD, and the scan on the right shows the brain of someone with ADHD. The greater concentration of yellow, orange, and red in the nucleus accumbens in the scan on the left reflects a higher amount of dopamine.
BUT—for people who do not have ADHD, stimulants flood the brain with dopamine, causing a dopamine overload. So instead of having a calming effect as they would on people with ADHD, stimulants taken without a medical reason can disrupt brain communication and cause euphoria. It might feel good at first, but repeated abuse of stimulants can:
- Increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
- Decrease appetite and sleep.
- Cause feelings of hostility and paranoia.
- Increase a person’s risk for addiction.
Doctors take many factors into account when prescribing a drug for a person who needs it: dose size, the person’s weight and height, how long the drug should be taken, and much more. The bottom line is that drugs affect everyone differently. Want to see how abusing Adderall could affect you physically and academically? Choose Your Path.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to see your life in the future? Have you ever wondered what MIGHT have happened if you’d just done something differently? Now’s your chance!
On July 27, 2011 NIDA launched a new, interactive activity on its PEERx Web pages called Choose Your Path. This activity asks you to play the role of the main character and walk through a day in his or her life. As you go through the video clips, you are confronted with the decision to choose between two paths. For example, you have to choose whether to take certain prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you—and you get to watch how each decision plays out onscreen.
The first video in the Choose Your Path collection, “BFF or the Ex,” allows you to experience a teenage girl’s life as she goes to school and encounters some serious drama with her friends. Only you can decide which path she will take. Should she go on a date with her best friend’s ex boyfriend? Or avoid the drama altogether and say no to him?
How it Works
First, a video clip will play on the screen to set up the scene. At the end of each video clip, you will have to choose one of two different paths by clicking a button on the screen. After making your choice, you can watch the scene play out. If you don’t like the ending, or if you’re curious about how a different choice will play out, just start over and choose a different path.
Behind the Scenes
Making this video took a long time, but was really fun. Students at Rockville High School (RHS) helped to make the video look as realistic as possible. NIDA auditioned and cast real-life teens to play the roles of the characters you see onscreen. After that, we took over the halls and classrooms of RHS to shoot the scenes. Many times we had to do LOTS of “takes” to get it just right. It was cool to see an abstract concept become a reality. We hope you like it!
This video was made with teens just like you in mind, so please send us your feedback. We want to hear what you think!
Child actresses turned luxury fashion designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen recently announced the release of patent Nile crocodile skin backpacks, some of which are covered with fake prescription drugs, as part of their fashion line.
These limited-edition backpacks—only 12 were made—were designed by renowned artist Damien Hirst and will cost an astronomical $55,000 each.
Prescription Drugs as Fashion?
While the price might be outrageous, what about the message? Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are already among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders—does this bag glamorize the problem?
In an interesting twist, the retailer has said that a portion of the proceeds from these bags will be donated to UNICEF—a children’s rights organization that works on issues such as immunizations, childhood development, gender rights, and HIV/AIDS transmission around the world—but it is unclear how much will be donated.
What do you think? Fashion is about creativity and expressing one’s individuality, and in the world of couture and high fashion, designers like to push the envelope…so is this “fashion statement” from Mary Kate and Ashley enough to influence how someone thinks about drug abuse? Or, is a purse just a purse? Does the fact that a portion of the proceeds will go to charity influence your opinion?
For more information about prescription drug abuse, check out PEERx.
As good as they are, it’s gotta get old, all these messages about “don’t do drugs” and live a healthy lifestyle, so NIDA has decided to take a fresh approach to allow teens to work directly with their peers and friends to plan community events around prescription drug abuse.
The PEERx Activity Guide appears on NIDA’s newly updated PEERx Web site and is full of cool activities and ideas that you can do in or out of school with friends and classmates, like: hold an artwork contest or poster campaign, participate in Drug Facts Chat Day, hold a CSI-type classroom activity, organize a school assembly, plan a Relieve the Stress Fest, or organize a t-shirt day to spread the message about making healthy choices. And more.
Check out the Activity Guide and read the how-to guides for each idea to find out how you and your friends can pull off one of these fun activities. Be a leader and start a peer-to-peer movement!
Hello, again. In my last post, I wrote about the importance of teens realizing their potential as effective leaders. Today, I want to share with you how some teens are leading a movement to prevent prescription drug abuse.
In the state of Ohio, youth-led prevention is alive and well. Last year, the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network (OYLPN)—made up of youth-led substance abuse prevention providers and youth across the state—planned and implemented a statewide rally, bringing together hundreds of drug-free teens from all over the state. As they marched through the downtown streets, they proudly shouted, “We are the majority!” and were greeted by many of the state’s leaders when they arrived at the Statehouse.
Youth to Youth (Y2Y) International, which I am a part of, is working to prevent prescription drug abuse among central Ohio teens. With the help of a grant from the Cardinal Health Foundation, a group of teens has adapted a toolkit from the Ohio State University School of Pharmacy Web site, Generation Rx, transforming it into an exciting and interactive presentation entitled, “The pHARMING Effects.”
The presentation includes:
- A definition of prescription drug abuse and misuse
- A discussion of the insidious nature of addiction
- The impact of prescription drug marketing as well as tips on how to think critically about this advertising
- Relevant statistics and strategies for teens to initiate change in their homes, schools, and communities
This is a great example of effective youth-led prevention: Teens taking relevant and accurate information, designing a presentation, then using it to educate other young people.
Y2Y Teens Partner With NIDA and PEERx
In summer 2012, in an effort to develop a youth-led workshop, several Y2Y teens checked out NIDA’s PEERx Web site. Using NIDA’s science-based information, they created a workshop entitled, “The Epidemic Among Us.” They presented this workshop six different times at the Youth to Youth International summer conferences in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island. The workshop was very well received by over 150 other teens, who each left with a t-shirt decorated using a PEERx iron-on transfer.
Presenting the workshop not only helped educate the teens in attendance, but introduced the Web site as an excellent resource for young people who hope to continue making an impact back home.
Youth leadership in the world of prevention is vital.
How are youth in your school or community working to prevent drug abuse?
Ty Sells is the Director of Training for Youth to Youth International. He has worked in the field of youth development for over 25 years and speaks at schools all over the United States. He has developed a variety of presentations, workshops, and trainings for youth and the adults who work with them.
Youth to Youth is a community-based drug prevention and youth leadership program focusing mainly on middle and high school students. The goal of its many projects is to harness the powerful influence of peers, encouraging young people to live free of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
Imagine that you have a big test tomorrow and you haven’t finished studying. You feel unprepared and stressed out, but the last thing you want to do is open that book. What do you do? Cram all night? Schedule a last-minute study group with friends? Don’t study and take your chances?
What if someone told you to take a prescription stimulant like Adderall to help you focus, but the prescription didn’t belong to you?
Which path would you choose?
Today, NIDA is launching the second Choose Your Path video, “The Big Test” on the PEERx section of the NIDA for Teens Web site. Choose Your Path puts you in control of the drama. In “The Big Test,” you are in the shoes of a teenage boy who hasn’t finished studying for his chemistry exam. You get to decide when or if he studies, or whether he takes his sister’s Adderall—a drug prescribed to her by a doctor for her ADHD—because he heard it would help him stay alert and focused. Of course, every decision has a consequence, and you’ll get to see each one play out.
How It Works
A video clip will play on screen to set up the story. At the end of each clip, you will get to choose one of two different paths by clicking a choice listed onscreen. After making your choice, you’ll get to see what it leads to in the next scene.
If you don’t like the ending, or if you’re curious about where a different choice will lead, simply start over and choose a different path. Unlike real life, this video gives you “do overs.”
Choose Your Path is part of our latest online initiative, PEERx, to share facts with you about what can happen to your brain and body if you abuse prescription drugs.
In June 2011, NIDA launched the first Choose Your Path video, “BFF or the Ex,” which takes you through the drama a teenage girl encounters with her friends at school. If you haven’t checked it out already, watch it now. We created the Choose Your Path videos with teens in mind. We consulted teens for their feedback every step of the way—and we cast real-life teens from a nearby school to be actors in this video. Now, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the final products. You can leave comments here on the blog or share your feedback through the other methods mentioned here.