January 27, 2014
This week—January 27 through February 2—is the fourth annual National Drug Facts Week. Every year since 2010, NIDA has sponsored this observance, during which schools and other community organizations host events to share and spread the science on drugs and drug abuse to teenagers.
The motto of NDFW is “shatter the myths.” America’s teens are steeped in misinformation about drugs that comes not only from their peers but also from the media. In music and movies and on TV, substance use and abuse are often glorified, and even addictions are frequently turned into material for entertainment. Positive, healthy messages are few and far between, and real science about the issue is seldom seen or heard. It is crucial to get communities involved in countering this and disseminating accurate information.
According to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, over 40 percent of high school seniors reported using an illegal drug at some point in the past year; 15 percent reported abusing a prescription drug; and nearly 23 percent reported smoking marijuana in the past month. Nearly 7 percent of seniors said they smoke marijuana regularly.
Marijuana is of course on people’s minds these days, and we know that use of that drug is related to perceptions of its safety. A growing percentage of adolescents see marijuana as harmless, possibly being influenced by all the public debate around legalization and the contentious issue of “medical marijuana.” (Attaching the word “medical” to a drug makes it seem like it couldn’t be bad for you.) These young people are unaware of the negative effects marijuana can have on the developing brain and on their long-term well-being.
I am also concerned with the increased abuse of prescription stimulants by young people who don’t have ADHD, both to get high and in the mistaken belief that these medications will boost their school performance.
In school and athletic events and other settings, NDFW brings teens together with scientists, to facilitate honest dialogue about drugs (including tobacco and alcohol as well as illicit and prescription drugs) and how they affect the brain, body, and behavior. Nearly 1,000 events in all 50 states are currently registered. One of the highlights of the week is a day-long online chat on Tuesday, January 28 between teens and NIDA scientists—who will be joined also by specialists on tobacco from the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, experts on alcohol abuse from NIAAA, and staff from NIMH who can answer teens’ questions on depression and other mental health issues. Students from 100 participating high schools around the country will post their questions and see them answered in real time by the experts. Anyone can follow the chat transcript at https://www.nidachat.org/publicchat.aspx
I am excited about any opportunity to share the science of drug abuse and the brain with the public—especially young people, whose brains and behavior are in a position to be shaped by the knowledge we provide. This year, I hope we reach and affect more teens than ever before. For more information, including a list of events around the country, please visit the NDFW website: http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/
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Welcome to my blog, here I highlight important work being done at NIDA and other news related to the science of drug abuse and addiction.
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