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!
The Internet is teeming with blogs about everything from food to shopping to high-tech gadgets. Anyone and everyone can start a blog, and while many bloggers try their hardest to get the facts right, mistakes do happen. When considering a post about a new fashion trend, that may seem harmless; but what about blogs that include information about prescription drug abuse or the effects of inhalants? In that case, wrong information can be dangerous—even deadly.
NIDA works hard to give teens accurate and reliable information on the Internet and encourages teens to ask questions about drugs and drug abuse. NIDA even sponsors a major Internet-based event every year called Drug Facts Chat Day where high school students from around the country can ask questions directly to NIDA experts.
Also, you can always ask questions here, in the SBB comments. Recently, SBB received a bunch of interesting new comments on last year’s post about NIDA’s National Drug Facts Week, “Get the Download on Drugs: Help Us Shatter the Myths.” Apparently, a teacher assigned students to read this blog post to help them answer particular questions.
Here are some sample comments (we didn’t edit these at all):
Question 5 - The best way to get the message out to teens is on TV because not all teens have a computer or an account, but most teens have a TV and watch it all the time at home. You can have a TV show where the they dedicate an episode to not doing stuff like, smoking and drinking!!
@muellerperiod5: Question 4- If an athlete uses steroids to improve they’re performance, I do think that is cheating. Because, they would be stronger than everyone else, it just wouldn’t be fair, that person could hurt others, and they would make the people who aren’t on steroids feel bad because they wouldn’t be doing as well as the person who is. Using steroids, or any other type of drug, comes with consequences. I think that the athlete who is using steroids should be kicked off the team as their consequence. I bet someone who doesn’t use steroids would do even better than the person who is.
Question 5 - I think Social Networks would be the best way to get the message out to teens. I think that because, most kids are on Facebook and Myspace and Twitter or just on the computer. Most teens wouldn’t pay attention to adults when they say drugs are bad, but since it’s on Facebook or Twitter, they would be more likely to pay attention.
SBB is proud to provide this science-based blog (and resource!) for teens.
So, how can you tell if the Web sites you visit offer reliable information? To answer the questions, you can either write your response in the “Leave a Reply” box below, or send us a message. We read all of your comments and feedback.
What are your biggest questions about drug abuse? What words come to mind when you think about addiction?
We took the transcript from the morning session at NIDA's 2008 Chat Day and used it to make this "word cloud." The biggest words are the words that were used most often in the conversation between teens and NIDA scientists—like drugs, school, and high. There were lots of questions about specific drugs, including marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco, and also about how to find help if you're worried that you or a friend might have problems with drug abuse or addiction. If you look closely you can spot NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow, who was answering questions online with kids, and some schools that participated in Chat Day, like Rockville High in Maryland and Yonkers High in New York. It's kind of cool to see a conversation between scientists and teens all summed up in a picture like this! You can read frequently asked questions from NIDA's Chat Day. And you can make your own word cloud pictures using any website or text at www.wordle.net.
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.
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.
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!
Let me introduce you to Taylor-a 17-year old, high school athlete from Plano, Texas. You might be a student-athlete yourself or have friends who are student athletes, so Taylor’s story might speak especially to you.
Taylor took his own life on July 15, 2003, as a result of abusing steroids. With Taylor’s death came the Taylor Hooton Foundation formed by his parents, family, and friends to honor his memory, after they became aware of the growing problem among high school athletes across the country. Not too long before Taylor’s death, NIDA noticed a sharp increase in the use of steroids among male teens in the late 1990s (Monitoring the Future Survey, 2008).
Unfortunately, I never met Taylor—wish I had gotten the opportunity—but I have met his dad, Don Hooton. Don is the type of guy that many of us aspire to be. I’ve had the opportunity to work with him and the Taylor Hooton Foundation on behalf of NIDA. The picture to the right is us at a Nationals game in DC. I’m sitting with pitcher Garrett Mock (L) and center fielder Willie Harris (R) (Who said work can’t be fun?) We’ve been working together with the goal of sharing Taylor’s story and helping teens help one another.
In memory of Taylor, please share his story with a friend. With your help, we can prevent another tragedy.
Learn more about the science behind steroid use and how it can affect your body.
Bio: Brian Marquis is a Public Liaison Officer at NIDA who connects with organizations across the country to prevent drug abuse among youth with the help of NIDA publications and Web sites. In his spare time he enjoys playing sports, working out, going to the beach, and playing baseball with his son.
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.
November 10th is NIDA's annual DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY! In case you haven't heard of it—more than 40 NIDA scientists and science writers sit down at computers and answer questions sent in live from high school students from all over the country. Last year, 11,000 teens sent in their questions! To actually ask a question on the CHAT your school has to register in advance. But even if you haven't registered, there's a lot of interesting stuff to read by just observing Chat Day, on November 10, 8 am to 6 pm EST. You'll see factoids and quizzes (test your "drug IQ") and links to other sites. And if you are curious to know what kids ask about, the transcripts from the 2007 and 2008 CHATS are also posted.
What do you think the most popular questions were? Last year teens asked a lot of questions about marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol (yes alcohol and cigarettes are drugs too). They also wanted to know what the "worst" drugs are, and what happens if someone who's pregnant uses drugs.
There were also lots of questions about the effects of drugs on the body, and teens asked how they could find help for friends who had problems with drugs. The most important thing to know about NIDA's DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY is that the scientists just want to give teens the scientific facts about drugs—no lectures.
So if you're near a computer (which you are if you are reading this!) take a look at NIDA's DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY webpage. See if the question you would ask is being asked by someone else. And next year, ask your teacher to register, so your class can post questions directly to NIDA scientists!
It’s the final countdown to National Drug Facts Week—January 28 through February 3, 2013! National Drug Facts Week, organized by NIDA, is a week of raising awareness in which schools and communities across the country host events and activities that empower teens to “shatter the myths” about drug abuse and addiction.
If you’re a student leader or already working to prevent drug abuse as part of an organization like SADD, National Drug Facts Week is a great way to stand out as a community champion in teen drug abuse prevention.
Getting involved is simple. Follow these 5 steps to plan and implement your event:
- Brainstorm event ideas. Make sure the event or activity you select fits the size, interest, and strengths of your community.
- Register your event. It’s easy! This will connect you with NIDA staff who can help direct you to FREE materials and other resources for your event.
- Order FREE materials to distribute at your event.
- Promote and publicize your event—this step is key to success!
- Share pictures and stories about your event with NIDA. And don’t forget to thank everyone who participated!
Curious what events are already planned? Check out the National Drug Facts Week interactive map.
Do you have a great event idea to share? Comment and let us know how you plan to shatter the myths about teen drug abuse in your community.
NIDA's annual DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY, held November 10, was a huge success. The computer-filled room where it happened vibrated with excitement, as more than 40 NIDA scientists eagerly tried to answer as many questions as they could. And questions they got. Teens from around the country sent in some 13,000 questions about drugs—wow, so nice to hear from you!
So what was different about Chat Day this year? Well for one, there seemed to be twice as many questions on marijuana. Maybe that's because the news lately is full of talk about marijuana (how confusing—some adults say it's bad for you, and others say it can be used as a medicine!). If you want to know how our scientists answered these questions, check out the CHAT DAY transcript, coming soon to http://www.nida.nih.gov/chat/.
What happens with the questions we didn't have time to answer? In the next few days, we will be reviewing all of the questions so we can learn more about what teens want to know about drugs. We're planning on adding what we find out to our teen Web site and we will blog more about it, too. If you think DRUG FACTS CHAT DAY sounds like fun, ask your school to sign up for next year. Schools will be able to register this summer. We'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, here's a list of some topics and the percentage of kids who asked about them this year.
30%: General questions (like "What's the worst drug?" or "Why do kids take drugs?")
20%: Marijuana 10%: Nicotine
8.5%: Illegal street drugs like cocaine, meth, LSD, PCP, and ecstasy
5.0%: How do I get help for a friend or family member?
< 3%: Steroids, Inhalants, Rx Drugs, Pregnancy (questions like "Are drugs bad for the baby?")
Ok, so what would you or your friends have asked about?
Facebook isn’t the only Web site that gets a makeover now and then.
Have you noticed that the Sara Bellum Blog and NIDA for Teens have a new look? And it happened just in time for the 2013 National Drug Facts Week, with its 500+ exciting events aimed at shattering the myths about drugs.
93% of teens who use social media use Facebook.
Best of all, teens guided and inspired the new design! This past year, we worked with the NIDA Teen Advisory Group, or TAG, to make sure the new site would be appealing.
Some of the new features include:
- New logo: TAG members helped select a new logo from seven designs.
- New images: Teens recommended using engaging images that included real people.
- Home page poll: The TAG also suggested that we add interactive features to the home page to draw visitors into the site.
75% of teens use a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device to access the Internet.
We did more than just update the design of NIDA for Teens. We also made sure that the new site would look good on all screen sizes, like cellphones and tablets.
How did we do? What do you like about the new design? Do you have any suggestions? Tell us in comments.
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t make good decisions because none of your friends agreed? Well, you’re definitely not alone. Take a look at these teens who wanted to be healthier and took a stand on teen alcohol and drug use by joining the Illinois Drug Education Alliance (IDEA)—no matter what their friends thought.
Even on Halloween, this group of teens ditched the typical party scene and got creative. They went trick-or-treating, but with a twist. Instead of asking for candy, they gave out brain-shaped stress balls and educated people on the harmful effects alcohol has on the teen brain.
“We all experience peer pressure, but not all peer pressure has to be negative. IDEA gives me a circle of friends who share my choice for a healthy lifestyle. Together, we encourage our peers to make smarter choices.”
—IDEA Youth Board member
Student members of the IDEA team, known as the Youth Board, work together to positively influence healthy decision-making in their schools and in their communities. They want every teen to understand that underage drinking isn’t the norm and that not everyone is doing it.
The Sara Bellum Blog had the opportunity to interview a few members of the IDEA Youth Board to get the 411 on their activities. You might be inspired by these ordinary teens who use their time in extraordinary ways.
Sara Bellum Blog (SBB): When was the Youth Board formed and why?
IDEA Youth Board (YB): IDEA was created in 1982 by a group of parents who quickly realized that the best way to reach teens is through other teens. At first, the board consisted of sons and daughters of IDEA members, but it quickly grew to include youth from all over Illinois who share a passion for the cause.
SBB: Who makes up the Youth Board and what led them to join?
IDEA YB: Most youth members are in high school, but some are in middle school. At our largest, we had 70 kids on the board! Usually we have between 20 and 30 members every year.
SBB: What are some of the main reasons youth join and stay on the board?
IDEA YB: Some of us get involved through the county; others through schools and friends. Many are leaders in their schools and communities. But we all share a common belief in what we do. That’s why we have an Alumni Board. Some youth love it so much that they can’t leave IDEA. They love to help us out however they can, even though they’re in college and busy with work. Everyone at IDEA is very active and involved in our activities.
SBB: What advice can you offer to teens who feel alone when trying to make healthy lifestyle choices?
IDEA YB: We tell them that there are other groups of people and friends who are happy without turning to drugs or alcohol. That’s who you want to hang out with.
SBB: How involved is the Youth Board in IDEA’s events?
IDEA YB: Teens are a crucial part. We get together for regular meetings and brainstorm ideas. We are there throughout the entire process, from development to implementation. We love to see our ideas unfold into programs.
SBB: How can teens in other states get involved?
IDEA YB: We would love to work with youth and organizations in other states. Anyone can visit the Web site, see what we’re doing, and fill out an application to join. Soon, we’ll have toolkits available that anyone can use! We’re always looking for youth who want to actively help and are passionate about the cause.
So, that’s the scoop on the Illinois Drug Education Alliance. Check out their Web site!
It’s hard to keep good news a secret. Some organizations think they can work “hush-hush” without us noticing, but at NIDA, we’re always on the lookout for people and places that are doing a new thing. So (drum roll please), let me introduce you to WyoCARE, the Wyoming Chemical Abuse Research Education (CARE) project:
WyoCARE is an organization that supports healthy living and substance abuse prevention in the state of Wyoming. So, what makes it so special? Well, WyoCARE not only provides free and interesting resources (like stickers, bookmarks, and magnets) on drug abuse and other healthy topics, its staff—along with a great team of graduate student and AmeriCorps volunteers—provide trainings, workshops, and consultations when they’re not busy sending out materials. It is this kind of “CAREing” that has helped them disseminate over a quarter million resources in the last three months!
This year, WyoCARE also displayed “NIDA Goes Back to School” campaign materials at the 2010 Governor’s Roundtable on Children’s Mental Health, an event held to thank everyone committed to improving children’s mental health. WyoCare used the opportunity to help educate youth and state leaders on the science of the brain, addiction, and drug abuse.
Think you have what it takes to CARE? Would you or someone you know quit smoking if it were proven that secondhand smoke was hurting your pets? Would you vow to keep a lookout for signs of drug activity in your neighborhood? WyoCARE’s resources can help you lead a healthier life and create a positive change in your community. Thanks WyoCARE!
OK, speaking of resources, we have a question for you—yes, you reading this blog post. NIDA wants to hear about how we are helping you (or how we could be doing better). For example, did you use information from our Web site for a science project? Or share it with a friend? We want to know—the good and the bad.
The idea for me hosting the event for the National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) came from my career as a forensic chemist—that is someone who examines drugs and chemical evidence related to crimes. In my job, I have direct contact with analyzing controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illicit and diverted drugs.
I am also a training coordinator. One of my duties in this role is to interact with high school students, but I noticed a lot of them use street slang terms for drugs and are misinformed about drugs of abuse.
Since I’ve ordered publications from NIDA in the past to assist with my drug education program, I was on the Web site recently and noticed National Drug Facts Week: Shatter the Myths advertised there. I was immediately intrigued by this initiative because I have been analyzing drugs for 10 years, I love what I do, and I express that by giving back to the community and sharing my knowledge about forensic science and drug education.
The first NDFW event held in Philadelphia will be at the recreation center in the community that I grew up in. The planning process required me to reach out to various businesses, schools, community centers, and radio stations. So far I’ve been a little discouraged because not everyone will support your cause, but what motivates me is my passion for what I do. I'm also motivated by this quote: “My hunger for success is fueled by my passion." :-)
So, if you are a teen and live near the area, you’re more than welcome to participate!
Antoinette T. Thwaites is a Laboratory Program Scientist and a founder of the Association of Women in Forensic Science. She also serves as a training coordinator for the Philadelphia Police Department/Forensic Science Center.
SBB talks a lot about science related to drug abuse and addiction. Judging from the great comments and questions that you guys have posted during the year, we can tell that you have brushed up on your facts. So once again, give us the scoop:
Besides SBB, what other blogs or Web sites do you visit to get the facts on science, health, drugs, and addiction?
To answer the question, 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.
Remember, you can respond to previous questions we’ve asked at any time! Whether you respond to an older post or the newest post, we always look forward to hearing from you.