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National Institute on Drug Abuse -  NIDA NOTES
Volume 15, Number 3 (August, 2000)

PRISM Awards Commend Accuracy in Drug-Issue Entertainment Programming

By Barbara Shine, NIDA NOTES Contributing Writer

Smoking and Drinking Trends

Actress Kathy Baker, winner of the PRISM Heritage Award, is joined by MTV talk show host Dr. Drew Pinsky and NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner at the PRISM Awards press conference.

One Thursday night, an "ER" nurse struggles to get her heroin-addicted, pregnant patient into an overloaded drug abuse treatment program. On a Saturday morning, a precocious 10-year-old- the "Smart Guy"-has to decide whether to have a beer at a party thrown by his older classmates. A Saturday night on HBO brings a film about Dorothy Dandridge, a rising star in the 1950s who lost her life to a drug overdose.

"We have been working for more than a decade to help educate professionals in the entertainment industry about the tremendous impact of drug abuse and addiction."

These are the kinds of true-to-life stories that earned recognition and commendations for the entertainment industry when the PRISM Awards 2000 were presented on March 21 in Beverly Hills, California. NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner, together with representatives of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) presented the fourth annual PRISM Awards to13 recipients in categories ranging from feature films to comic book storylines.

"Often the entertainment media are criticized for glamorizing drug use on TV and in the movies. Through the PRISM Awards, we are able to recognize productions that show drug abuse and its consequences in an accurate light," says Dr. Leshner. "We have been working with EIC for more than a decade to help educate professionals in the entertainment industry about the tremendous impact of drug abuse and addiction."

"The Insider," an Oscar-nominated film about the tobacco industry's coverup of cigarette smoking's hazards, received the PRISM Award for Theatrical Feature Film. "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" was recognized in the TV movie category. Other PRISM Awards went to individual episodes or continuing storylines in television series including "Suddenly Susan," "ER," "Once and Again," "Smart Guy," and "As the World Turns." In children's TV categories, PRISM recipients included "Batman Beyond" and "City Guys."

Smoking and Drinking Trends

Brian Dyak, president, Entertainment Industries Council (left), and Ms. Nancy Kauffman, vice president, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, were speakers at the PRISM Awards presentation in Los Angeles. They are joined by Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the former tobacco company chemist whose story was told in the film "The Insider."

The PRISM Heritage Award is given to writers, actors, and directors who achieved excellence in accurate depiction of drug abuse prior to the PRISM Awards' founding in 1997. This year's recipients were actors Michael Keaton and Kathy Baker, recognized for their portrayals in the 1988 film "Clean and Sober."

The Larry Stewart Leadership and Inspiration Awards were given to daytime talk-show host Leeza Gibbons, documentary producer Arnold Shapiro, and actor Martin Sheen. The Stewart Awards are named in memory of the EIC founding board director, a writer/producer/director who led early efforts to encourage the entertainment industry to work to develop programming that accurately depicts health and social issues.

Gibbons was honored as a role model for both the entertainment industry and the public. As host of a daytime talk show, as well as the Emmy Award-winning "Teen Files" and other TV specials, Gibbons addresses issues of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and addiction. She also has been active with national organizations, such as the March of Dimes, KidsPeace, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and campaigns concerning children's health and safety.

Shapiro was recognized for productions, such as "Scared Straight," that shed light on abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. The followup "Scared Straight! 20 Years Later," hosted by Danny Glover, was televised in 1999 and nominated for a 2000 PRISM Award.

Sheen was commended as someone who has been committed to issues surrounding addiction, families, and fatherhood. In his role as the fictional United States President Josiah Bartlet in the TV series "The West Wing," Sheen has brought nationwide attention to drug abuse and addiction. Sheen also has made appearances in support of the drug court system and its improvement.

Smoking and Drinking Trends

NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner and actor Martin Sheen discuss addiction in the media during luncheon before the PRISM Awards presentations. Sheen's series, "The West Wing," has featured storylines that address the science behind drug abuse treatment.

Professionals from every segment of the entertainment industry submitted 158 productions, organizations involved in community service pro-jects, and individual volunteers to the EIC reviewers who passed along 51 nominees to the PRISM Awards Nomination Review Committee. The 38 nominees that did not win PRISM Awards received commendations or certificates of merit.

Actors Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Mackenzie Phillips, and Dave Coulier hosted the PRISM Awards ceremony. Additional presenters included Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of "Loveline;" Kathleen Quinlan, star of "Family Law;" and John Spencer, costar of "The West Wing."

NIDA NOTES - Volume 15, Number 3

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