Volume 10, Number 4
NIDA Takes a Lead Role in National Marijuana Initiative
By Neil Swan, NIDA NOTES Contributing Writer
NIDA is taking a lead role in the Marijuana Use Prevention Initiative announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala. The Institute is providing the scientifically based messages about marijuana that are designed to dispel myths, increase public awareness of rising trends in marijuana use among teens, and educate the public about the consequences of marijuana use, especially emphasizing the consequences for young people.
NIDA is preparing question and answer booklets written
Online versions of these publications available
for both parents and teenagers that present information to help
correct widespread public misconceptions about marijuana use.
To kick off the Initiative, this summer NIDA sponsored the National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research. Leading marijuana researchers made presentations on the consequences and effects of marijuana use, changing trends in its use, what it does to the body, and how marijuana use can progress from initiation to dependence or the use of other drugs. They discussed the effects of its psychoactive ingredient on the brain, on the disease-fighting immune system, and on children of women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy. They outlined how marijuana use, often in combination with alcohol, is associated with increased risks of auto accidents and the spread of AIDS.
Keynote addresses for this first national conference focusing on marijuana were delivered by Secretary Shalala and Dr. Lee P. Brown, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, following a welcoming address by NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner.
To support the Marijuana Initiative, NIDA is also preparing science-based materials on how marijuana affects the brain, including learning and memory, and the body. The materials include question-and-answer booklets written for both parents and teenagers; a one-page fact sheet on the drug; "Marijuana Use: What Parents Can Do," a videotape for parents and other adults presenting science-based facts about marijuana; and a science education series for elementary school students. Advance copies of the booklets and a short version of the video were presented at the conference.
NIDA is working in collaboration with the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a voluntary alliance of advertising agencies, in developing materials, videos, and programs to support the Secretary's Marijuana Use Prevention Initiative.
The Initiative was prompted last December when NIDA's Monitoring the Future survey reported disturbing trends showing increases in drug use among teenagers as young as 13.
The survey showed that, during the last 3 years, marijuana use among 8th graders doubled and use among 10th and 12th graders increased significantly. "Current" use-within the past 30 days-of marijuana among high school seniors increased by 38 percent during the same period.
Along with increased use of marijuana and other drugs, the NIDA-sponsored survey also found a significant erosion in antidrug perceptions among young people. The proportion of those who believe occasional or regular marijuana use is harmful has declined by 22 percent over the last 3 years, according to the survey.
In announcing the Initiative, Secretary Shalala and other officials noted the proliferation of drug-culture images in movies and other media.
In addition to spearheading the Marijuana Initiative, the Institute is also expanding its marijuana research agenda with supplements to current research grants and a new marijuana research program announcement issued in July.
NIDA also continues to promote its antidrug campaign targeting teens and young adults. With the collaboration of the Advertising Council, the Institute is now producing the next phase of its "Get High, Get Stupid, Get AIDS" national media campaign. The campaign includes new TV announcements targeting both teens and young adults.
From NIDA NOTES, July/August, 1995
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