My name is Sharlett, and I’m from Washington State. Recently, I completed an internship for NIDA in Washington, DC. I worked behind the scenes with the communications experts, which means I was involved with organizing and publicizing different cool events and publications that NIDA offers you.
One of my most interesting projects was helping to spread the word about National Drug Facts Week, which occurred last November. One of my biggest tasks was to promote the “National Drug IQ Challenge en Español”—to encourage teens, their parents, and friends to take the quiz and test their knowledge about drug abuse and addiction. This was the first year the Challenge was offered in Spanish, and everyone has been really excited about it.
I am thrilled I got to be a part of such a great organization. I was offered the chance to work for NIDA in late July, and I knew right away it was an awesome opportunity. Every day, I got to use what I learned in college to promote drug awareness and help teens stay safe. I think it is crucial to make facts about drugs easily available to teens to counteract all the myths that are floating around.
Before coming to NIDA, my knowledge about drugs and drug abuse was very limited. I knew that drugs harm the body and that they can lead to illness or even death. I knew that one of my favorite comedians, Chris Farley, died from a drug overdose in 1997. I began to form perceptions and beliefs about drug abuse, but my “drug IQ” was very basic. After working at NIDA for just a few weeks, I learned some surprising new facts like:
Drug addiction is a disease. Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works.
Marijuana can be addictive. The changes from using marijuana or any drug are different for each person. For marijuana, about 1 in 11 people who use it become addicted, and that rate goes up if you start young and if you smoke a lot. To learn the facts about marijuana, check out the booklet, Marijuana: Facts for Teens.
Not all drugs are illegal. Tobacco and alcohol are both addictive drugs and can cause serious health problems. Similarly, prescription drugs, which are meant to help people with health problems, can become addictive and are being abused at high rates among all age groups, including teens.
If more people knew the facts, they could better understand drugs and their consequences. I know I do. The next National Drug Facts Week starts January 28, 2013. I’ll be watching the National Drug Facts Week Web site to see what new and interesting things NIDA has to offer.