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NIDA. (2012, September 25). Using What You Learn To Help Others. Retrieved from

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Joanna Arellano, NIDA Spring 2012 College Intern
September 25 2012
Joanna Arellano, NIDA Spring 2012 College Intern and her twin sister
Joanna is also a twin! That's her on the right.

My experience at NIDA was an incredible one where I learned a great deal about addiction, the science behind it, and outreach to NIDA’s different audiences. For instance, I had no idea that addiction was a disease of the brain and that certain individuals’ genes may cause them to be more vulnerable to using drugs and alcohol, along with environment and other influences.

It was fascinating to study about drugs more in-depth and how using them really does change the chemical structure of your brain, making it more difficult to quit.

Taking Resources Back Home

On top of what I learned about addiction science, I was fortunate to learn how NIDA’s health campaigns work and how to successfully send out public health messages to different groups. Learning about marginalized communities, such as inner-city children, and some of the difficulties they struggle with regarding drugs and alcohol spoke to me the most for a number of reasons.

I am deeply passionate about helping to solve certain problems affecting minority populations because of my own neighborhood in Chicago, where drugs and crime are all too common.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many programs available for youth to start prevention early, but now that I’m aware of the resources that NIDA offers (and in Spanish too!) it’s definitely one of my goals to begin contacting schools and youth ministries about the materials NIDA offers.

Art Meets Science

I gained so much insight during my internship with NIDA about public outreach on a national level, the importance of many groups working together to carry out a project, and event planning—just to name a few.

I will be forever indebted to those at NIDA who offered me their guidance and time to make the most of my semester there. It was one of the best times of my life!

Joanna Arellano was a college intern in NIDA’s Public Information and Liaison Branch within the Office of Science Policy and Communications during spring 2012. Since leaving NIDA, she accepted an internship for Catholic Relief Services in its Global Initiative program. To learn more about internship opportunities with the National Institutes of Health, visit the NIH Training Center.