NIDA's Outreach

Posted on December 5, 2011

David Shurtleff talks about NIDA's innovative community outreach programs.

 

NIDA does have a very large outreach program. A lot of the information that we develop, a lot of the research that we support... part of our mission is not only to support the research but to disseminate those findings in ways that's useful to the community. And one approach we've taken over the last couple of years is we started off as the NIDA Chat Day where we would basically use the web to hook up with high school students around the country, typically seniors in high school, and have a Chat Day through the web where NIDA scientists would, in real time, answer questions from high school kids about their questions about drug abuse, drug addiction, drugs of abuse in general.

It's been a very effective program in terms of reaching out to the community, particularly to young kids who are vulnerable in terms of becoming addicted to drugs and abusing drugs. We provide scientific information in a way we hope is understandable to them, give them the real facts about the drugs based on the research, based on the findings from our scientists who are doing the work in the laboratories to help them better understand the consequences of taking drugs of abuse.

And so what we're really trying to do is bring this information in a way that they find useful, in a way that they can relate to what we're saying, not so much as a government agency but more trying to reach out in a way that is more comfortable for them in giving them the information that they really need to make good decisions.

So, yeah, we're relying much more... In the past, as you might imagine, we were much more print focused: pamphlets, brochures. We still do some of that and we've come a long way with how to present the material in that format but a lot of it has shifted to electronic media. As I mentioned, Chat Day has now become Chat Week where there's multimedia activities involving television, the Internet, and other forms of media to really push the message about drug abuse and addiction.

We also have started this performance media program where we have actors come in and perform a scene from "Long Day's Journey Into Night" by Eugene O'Neill, which is a very poignant story about a family with addiction problems and we allow the actors to perform a scene from that play and then we engage the community in getting their reactions and helping them understand what's going on in this family and what the consequences are of and what are some of the solutions in dealing with someone who is addicted to, in this case, it's the mother is addicted to morphine and the father and son are probably... it's unclear from the one scene but probably very close to being alcoholics.

And again, the dynamic of the family, how that's portrayed, is very powerful, and, of course, that allows the community to engage in a dialog about what this means to be addicted and how the community can do a better job of helping people in need such as the family in the play.

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Excerpted from an interview with the researcher conducted at the 2011 NHSN Conference held in Miami, FL.

NIDA Drug Facts Week

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