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NIDA in the News

December 2011


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NIDA’s second annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a health observance week for teens designed to Shatter the Myths about drugs and drug abuse, was held October 31 – November 6, 2011. This year, NIDA’s outreach strategy included traditional media (15 television interviews in major U.S. markets and three national radio interviews) and social media (Twitter, Facebook and blogger outreach). New 2011 tactics included targeted Facebook announcements, partnerships with Radio One network and AOL and an event on the Today Show plaza. Our efforts were recognized by PR Week, one of the top trade magazines for the public relations field!

Media placements included stories with the Washington Post, US News & World Report, MSNBC and Yahoo! News and Finance and a national pickup on USA Radio Network. Press release 1 ⇒ | Press release 2 ⇒

How National Drug Facts Week Got Started

NDFW was inspired by the success of NIDA’s Drug Facts Chat Day, which began in 2007. Each year, NIDA scientists receive thousands of questions via a web chat from teens at registered schools across the country. In response to this demonstrated interest by teens to get the scientific facts about drugs, NIDA developed NDFW, asking teens, schools and community groups all over America to hold their own “Q and A” events with local experts.

Hundreds of NDFW Community Events Held Across the Nation

Google Map showing NIDA Drug Facts Week events

NIDA’s 2011 outreach efforts stimulated more than 165 community-based events in 47 states nationwide. Events were sponsored by a variety of organizations, including schools, community groups, sports clubs, book clubs, and local hospitals. NIDA’s online toolkit advised teens and their sponsoring organizations on how to create an event, publicize it, find a scientific expert, and on where to find information on drugs. NIDA again supplied event organizers with the "Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths" booklet.

Media and community partners helped spread the word about NDFW, including MTV, the Grammy Foundation, the Mentor Foundation,, H&M Clothing, House of Sweden, Phoenix House, as well as several federal, state, and local agencies. View the list of partners ⇒

Examples of local events included:

Mario Barrett with students wearing H&M shirts

R&B Recording Artist Mario Barrett with students wearing H&M shirts.

  • The Mentor Foundation USA invited 100 D.C. high school students to the House of Sweden to Shatter the Myths about drugs and to pledge to stay drug free. Speakers included NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and R&B recording artist Mario Barrett of The Mario Do Right Foundation. The George Washington University Center for Alcohol/Peer Drug Educators presented workshops in a game show format, and the clothing retailer H&M announced the winner of their drug free T-shirt slogan contest.

  • FArtwork of Mt. Shasta High School Students in California

    Artwork of Mt. Shasta High School Students in California

  • In California, the Siskiyou County Office of Education and the local substance abuse coalition organized several activities with K-12 students. Approximately 500 students participated in a poster contest and also took the Drug IQ Challenge. Students at Mt. Shasta High School painted the town’s railroad overcrossing bridge to promote NDFW and asked people to remember all those they knew who had lost their lives to drug abuse. The high school also assembled a panel of adults to share their personal stories and struggles with addiction.

  • Fort Bend student with NDFW booklet

    Fort Bend student takes the IQ Challenge

  • In Washington, DC, the mayor issued a proclamation for National Drug Facts Week. See proclamation ⇒

  • Students from five schools in Texas’ Fort Bend Independent School District took the IQ Challenge and participated in real-time, mini-chat sessions with scientists about the impact of drugs on the body.

More information on other events ⇒ | View more pictures of local events on NIDA Flickr site ⇒

Radio One Partnership

Russ Parr/Ricky Smiley website screenshot and Grant Davis photo

This year, NIDA partnered with Radio One, in particular the Russ Parr and Rickey Smiley Morning Shows, to promote NDFW via interviews and on-air and website promotions. Interviews were conducted with Gaya Dowling, Acting Chief, Science Policy Branch, and Grant Davis, the 3rd place winner of the teen music contest. The combined reach of these two programs is nearly 4.5 million listeners each week. Radio One is a national broadcasting company that primarily targets African-American listeners.

NIDA, Grammy and MusiCares Conduct Teen Substance Abuse Awareness Music Contest

Radio One website screenshot

NIDA again collaborated with MusiCares® and the GRAMMY Foundation® to create the 2011 Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest. The contest was open to teens ages 14-18. Entrants were asked 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. Composers of all three winning entries won a trip to Los Angeles to attend a 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards "Backstage Experience," a special backstage tour while artists rehearse for the live GRAMMY Awards show in February. In addition, winning entrees were posted on several websites including NIDA’s site, ONDCP’s Above the Influence site and the MTV and the GRAMMY Foundation’s websites. See both winning and runners-up entries at The 3rd place winner was interviewed by the Russ Parr and Rickey Smiley Radio Shows (and had his song played nationally!) and was interviewed by NPR’s Health Blog “Shots”. Read the story ⇒

What’s Your Drug IQ?

Radio One website screenshot

As part of the week’s activities, NIDA created its second annual National Drug IQ Challenge for teens and adults to test their science-based knowledge about drugs. NIDA promoted the IQ Challenge on Facebook, which resulted in over 50,000 clicks on the quiz. An additional 48,000 people took the quiz that was posted on Radio One. The quiz can be found at This year, NIDA also launched the IQ Challenge in Spanish.

Chat Day 2011 Breaks Record for Number of Questions Answered

Radio One website screenshot

NIDA staffers answering questions on Chat Day

Radio One website screenshot

Drs. Nora Volkow and Susan Weiss answering questions on Chat Day 2011

On November 1st, NIDA held its annual Drug Facts Chat Day and answered almost 1700 questions, surpassing last year’s record! Last year, NIDA answered approximately 1600 questions and in 2008 and 2009, NIDA answered about 1200 questions. This year, 125 schools registered for Chat Day -- topping last year’s 75 registrations — including participants from Bulgaria and Italy! The drugs most commonly asked about were marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and prescription drugs. Experts from NIAAA and NIMH joined NIDA again this year to help field questions.

The 2011 Chat Day transcript is now posted at