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?
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?
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.
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.
Today marks NIDA’s fourth annual Drug Facts Chat Day! Beginning in 2007, NIDA scientists teamed up with a few high schools to create an online forum for teens to ask questions about drug abuse and the science behind addiction. This year, Chat Day is taking place during the first annual National Drug Facts Week, November 8–14—a whole week dedicated to shattering the myths about drugs and addiction. You can participate. Read on:
How to Get in on Chat Day
- Check to see if your school has preregistered for Chat Day. If your school has registered, you will be given an access code to log into the chat. Since Chat Day takes place completely online, anyone at a registered school can participate from any computer! The chat begins at 8 a.m. EST on November 9th and will stay open until 6 p.m. EST—there’s plenty of time to join in!
- Think of what you’d like to ask. NIDA scientists will be ready and waiting to answer your questions. Type a question about drug abuse or addiction into the chat box and a NIDA expert will be on hand in real time to answer it. If your question isn’t answered right then and there, it will be addressed after Chat Day is over and included as part of a transcript on our website. Here’s the one from last year. We might even post your question and our answer here on the SBB.
- Spread the word! Tell your friends and teachers to get involved with Chat Day and National Drug Facts Week. The more people who participate, the more myths can be shattered!
SBB has the scoop on the lucky teens who have won the the MusiCares and GRAMMY Foundation Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest---their prize includes a trip to Los Angeles to attend a GRAMMY rehearsal backstage! You might remember from a recent blog that the contest is part of NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week. We asked teens ages 14-18 to compose or create an original song and/or music video that “explores, encourages, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle or accurately depicts a story about drug abuse.
The three winners focused on personal experience living around drugs, and told their stories through original music and lyrics.
First prize went to the songwriting team of Daevion Caves, an 18-year-old high school junior, and Jordan Atkins, a 16-year-old sophomore, both students at Alton high School in Alton, Illinois. Their music video, “Drug Free State of Mind,” shows them living daily around drug use but having the courage to stay drug-free: “We all Shootin’ Stars, patiently waiting to be seen…remember what you do, you got the power to… determine your future.”
Second place went to Markiest “Ghost” Jones, a 15-year-old 10th grader from Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida. His musical composition, “A Clearer View,” is a rap song he described as a cautionary tale about what happens when you decide to take drugs: “Do better than addicted/Make love the true prescription/Hope is all you gonna need/So believe you can achieve.”
Third place went to Vera Marquardt, a 17-year-old in recovery at the Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles, California. Raised in Hawaii, Vera strums a ukulele to accompany the story of her journey that she calls “Take it to the Days.” Her lyrics include these words: “Take it to the Days When I didn’t have to Depend/the easy way out has slowed me down… but I lift off the ground.”
The winners will be given star treatment at the 53rd GRAMMY awards. But more important, they are living proof that you can pursue your dreams without getting distracted by drugs.
Interested in watching and hearing the winning entries? Go to: http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/contest.php
If you are having trouble listening to the audio files you may need to download the free Windows Media Player
The brain controls just about everything we do, think, and feel. It coordinates all of the body’s physical functions—like standing, walking, and breathing—as well as our memory, emotions, and behaviors.
Managing all of those jobs requires 100 billion neurons, or brain cells. And those neurons have trillions—yes, trillions—of connections through synapses, or routing switches that control how these nerve impulses travel around the brain and through the body.
With so much going on in that tightly packed space between our ears, it’s no wonder the brain requires its own field of scientific research—neuroscience.
“Brain science allows us to try and understand what makes us uniquely human and drives our behaviors and response to others,” says NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.
NIDA Interviews Neuroscientists
To spotlight researchers whose work is advancing the science of the brain, NIDA interviewed several top neuroscientists investigating drug abuse and addiction. Four scientists in this group of video clips talk about what attracted them to study the brain—and all are obviously excited about how their research is increasing our knowledge about the brain and how drugs affect it.
Have you ever considered a career studying the brain?
Regardless of whether or not teens should care about body image or physical appearances, the truth is that we do care, a lot. And working out is a healthy way to look and feel better. The trouble comes when people sacrifice their health to look buff—like by taking steroids.
While not that many teens try steroids even once, according to NIDA surveys (about 3 in 100), those who do use steroids are getting a lot more than just larger muscles. Steroids can cause acne and make your hair fall out. They can also damage your heart and change your hormone levels so that girls might grow facial hair, and boys could develop breasts. Seriously. NIDA scientist Dr. Baler reveals more about what steroids can do in the video to the right.
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.
Hollywood is exciting, glamorous, dramatic, funny, and can make just about anything seem cool—including drug abuse, and especially the use of marijuana. But films don’t tell you the whole story. Did you know there are over 400 different chemicals in marijuana smoke? Did you know that marijuana smoke really does hurt your memory, judgment, and perception? And yes—you can get addicted to marijuana!
In this video, NIDA scientist Dr. Joe Frascella explains why marijuana is not all its “glammed” up to be. Dr. Frascella runs the division of NIDA that deals with clinical neuroscience, human development, and behavioral treatment for drug abuse and addiction. Watch the video and then tell us in comments which movies you think glamorize the use of marijuana.
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?
Have you been at a restaurant or party where people are smoking, and acting like their clouds of smoke are no big deal? Do you put up with breathing secondhand smoke to hang out with your friends? In this video, Dr. Gaya Dowling and Dr. Redonna Chandler sink a few balls while sharing some real facts about smoking.
Fact: Nicotine is addictive.
Fact: Most smokers start smoking before the age of 18.
Fact: It only takes eight seconds for the nicotine in cigarette smoke to be inhaled, enter your brain, and start affecting your brain cells—whether or not you're the one who lit up in the first place!
That's less time than it takes most people to cue up and make a shot. Watch the video and see what you think.
Every now and then, we like to feature NIDA videos about drug abuse and addiction here on this blog—like Get Back in the Game—Use Painkillers Safely; Dr. Nora Volkow’s Visit to Harlem High School; Nicotine and Tobacco Addiction; Marijuana Addiction Facts for Teens; and Dr. Ruben Baler’s video on the dangers and effects of steroid abuse. (Want to see these videos and more? Click on the image below). So now we want to know:
What do you think of these videos? Do the video topics pull you in? Would you want to see more of NIDA’s videos featured on the SBB?
To answer the question, you can either submit a comment by writing 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; just drop us a comment! We always look forward to hearing from you!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.