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!
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!!!
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.