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National Institute on Drug Abuse -  NIDA NOTES
Special Report
Volume 14, Number 3 (September, 1999)

Educating Children and Adults About Drug Abuse and Science

25 Years of Progress

Eight years ago, NIDA funded the production of a video by a group of middle school students in Maryland that would answer their questions about drug abuse and the brain. Today that video, "If You Change Your Mind," is still being used by teachers across the country.

"'If You Change Your Mind' was the first product of NIDA's science education program," says Dr. Cathrine Sasek, who directs the program. The Institute established the program in 1991 to improve the quality of science education in grades K-12, to interest children in pursuing careers in scientific research, particularly drug abuse research, and to increase the general public's knowledge of the scientific facts about drug abuse and addiction. The information provided by the program enables children and adults to make educated decisions about drug use and other health matters.

In the years since "If You Change Your Mind" was created, the science education program has produced a variety of appealing materials that communicate information about science, drug abuse, and drug addiction to students, parents, teachers, and the general public. One of the program's most popular products is the Mind Over Matter series, which debuted in 1997. Mind Over Matter's eye-catching magazines showcase the adventures of a girl named Sara Bellum as she explores the brain's response to individual drugs of abuse and communicates key concepts of neuroscience. Other popular products developed through science education grants include:

  • slide teaching packets with suggestions to help scientists communicate with middle and high school students about the brain and addiction;

  • a traveling museum exhibit featuring an interactive CD-ROM that shows drugs working in the brain; and

  • another CD-ROM-based program that parodies popular TV shows to counter myths and misconceptions about drug abuse and addiction.


Scene One, Take One:
Maryland middle school students shoot "If You Change Your Mind," the video that helped launch NIDA's Science Education Program.

In 1998, NIDA packaged a number of these and other educational resources into the "NIDA Goes to School" kit and mailed them to science teachers at more than 18,000 public and private middle schools across the country.

The science education program accomplishes its goals through the in-house development of materials, Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Awards (SEDAPA), and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. Evaluations conducted by SEDAPA and SBIR grantees over the years show that NIDA's science education programs have improved scientific literacy and corrected misconceptions about drug abuse and addiction among school children and adults, Dr. Sasek says.

For More Information

Science education materials and additional information about drugs of abuse can be obtained from the "NIDA Goes Back to School" Web site on NIDA's home page on the World Wide Web at A catalogue of NIDA's current science education materials and ordering information can be obtained by clicking on the Publications link on NIDA's home page.

NIDA NOTES - Volume 14, Number 3

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