National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week 2024

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week 2024

The Drug Enforcement Administration supports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) during their annual National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW®) which has been held since 2010. NDAFW brings scientific experts and teens together to discuss the scientific facts about drugs, as well as their potential health effects on teen bodies and brains. 

The week-long observance will be held March 18-24, 2024.

Substance Use and the Teen Brain

“As adolescents mature, they undergo complex developmental changes, especially in their brains. The widespread changes in the organization and functioning of the brain—which continue into a person’s mid-20s—bring about the cognitive, emotional, and social skills necessary for adolescents to survive and thrive. The nature of these rapid changes may also increase the adolescent brain’s vulnerability to alcohol exposure” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2023). 

A wealth of research suggests that drinking alcohol in adolescence may have significant effects on brain function. The earlier people start drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to experience a measurable impact on cognitive functions, memory, and school performance over time—perhaps even into adulthood.

Many drugs unnaturally deplete the brain’s production of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins (the chemicals that produce happiness and pleasure). As a result, drugs cause the brain to reward the person for taking drugs – and not for healthy eating, sleeping, healthy social interaction and other vital aspects of life.

Addiction and the Brain

According to a new study published in Nature Mental Health, there is a common brain network among people with substance use disorders. The results of the study suggest that the same brain circuit may be a therapeutic target for addiction treatment.

Substance use stimulates the brain’s reward system, which is the brain circuit just referenced; dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation, is heavily involved in this brain neurocircuitry. However, the longer and more consistently someone uses a substance to achieve this dopamine spike, the less their brain will make its own dopamine. In other words, this means more of the drug will be required to achieve the same “reward” feeling over time – this is also known as tolerance to a substance.

“Additionally, the brain will respond with less dopamine to non-drug-related ‘rewards.’ Plus, not using drugs can mean withdrawal is a very negative physical experience, so the brain will crave more dopamine and more drugs” (Healthline, 2023). 

This process is what leads to addiction.

Addiction Psychiatrists affiliated with the Mental Health Center

We have several knowledgeable and compassionate physicians affiliated with the Mental Health Center who are experts in treating addiction and substance use disorders:

  • Mark Hrymoc, MDDr. Hrymoc is an expert in the psychopharmacology of addiction and other mental health disorders. He is board-certified in General Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, and Addiction Medicine and holds an appointment as Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, where he supervises training psychiatrists at their Addiction Psychiatry Clinic. He obtained his subspecialist training in Addiction Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Hrymoc is a consulting physician to several prestigious drug and alcohol treatment centers in Los Angeles. Dr. Hrymoc is also one of the founders of the Mental Health Center.
  • Kimberly Brown, MD – Kimberly Brown, MD is double-boarded in General Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry. Dr. Brown received her medical degree from USC/Keck School of Medicine and completed her internship at Cedars-Sinai. She finished her residency at USC/Keck where she served as Chief Resident of Outpatient Services and received specialized training in psychodynamic, intensive short-term and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. Following graduation, she pursued an Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship at the UCLA/Sepulveda Valley program. She has practiced in a variety of settings including the Veteran’s Administration, emergency psychiatry, and hospital based psychiatric services. She is a staff physician at Cedars-Sinai for the Consult-Liaison department. She provides psychiatric evaluations and medication management with special attention to individual requirements. She is flexible and integrative in her approach to meet the needs and desired outcomes of each person. 
  • Vicki Kalira, MD – Dr. Vicki Kalira is an expert in treating substance use disorders and is board certified in General Adult Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry. Dr. Vicki Kalira completed medical school at West Virginia University and her psychiatry residency at Johns Hopkins University. After completing a one-year addiction psychiatry fellowship at New York University (NYU), she supported hospitalized patients at NYU-Tisch Hospital as a Consultation-Liaison Psychiatrist. Here, her focus centered on providing care to patients with complex medical and psychiatric comorbidities who were experiencing acute intoxication or withdrawal. Dr. Kalira then transitioned to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), where she still provides crucial psychiatric support. Dr. Vicki Kalira is the Acting Medical Director for Addiction Recovery Treatment Services at the VA Northern California Health Care System, a critical leadership role.
  • Daniel Son, MD – Dr. Daniel Son is unique in having completed formal fellowship training in both Child & Adolescent and Addiction Psychiatry. He has a particular interest in the treatment of severe mental illness and adolescents with addiction issues. Dr. Son completed his medical degree at Loma Linda University and completed his Psychiatry residency and fellowships at the University of Louisville. Dr. Son focuses on providing thorough diagnostic interviews and providing medication management services. Dr. Son has received numerous awards during his training including the Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award, the Eli Lilly Chief Resident Leadership Program Award, and has several clinical and education awards.
  • Ellie Mizani, MD – Dr. Ellie Mizani is a psychiatrist specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry and addiction medicine. She is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Mizani completed her undergraduate and medical studies at UC Irvine. She also completed her psychiatric and child and adolescent psychiatry subspecialty training at the UC Irvine Medical Center. During the last year of her child psychiatry training, Dr. Mizani served as Chief Fellow and graduated with commendation. Dr. Mizani also trained at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, focusing on pediatric psychopharmacology for ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and autism. Dr. Mizani is also one of the founders of the Mental Health Center.

Please contact our office at (310) 601-9999 or visit our Mental Health Center website to schedule an appointment today!




Healthline (2023). People With Substance Use Disorder Have Similar Brain Networks. Healthline.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023). Alcohol and the adolescent brain. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.,time%E2%80%94perhaps%20even%20into%20adulthood.