Improv Show About Teen Substance Abuse Brings Awareness to Middle School Students
Recently in Milford, Massachusetts, the Drug Story Theater made a stop. The Drug Story Theater offers a unique and creative way to approach teen substance abuse prevention. Seventh-graders filled the auditorium at Stacy Middle School for the show from the Drug Story Theater, and many raised their hands when asked if they knew someone who’d used opioids or who had died of an opioid-related overdose.
Drug Story Theater is a drug prevention program for youth that features a live performance with teens and young adults. The improv-style show includes stories of addiction and recovery. The goal is to educate students and also to help them avoid making their own mistakes. The performances delve into the science of the teen brain and explore why it’s vulnerable to lifelong addiction. Students in the audience are asked to take brain science quizzes before and after the show. According to show creators, these quizzes have shown shifts in the perception of the addictive nature of drugs and alcohol and a reduction in substance use 30 days after seeing the performance.
In 2018, the Blue Cross Blue Shield company of Massachusetts made a $275,000 investment into Drug Story Theater. That investment will help the program expand and increase its number of school district partners to hopefully reach 16,000 Massachusetts students each year.
Teen Drug Use Statistics
The issue of drug use in middle school is more prevalent than many parents might think. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for substance use in children, starting at the age of nine. Teen drug statistics highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:
- Adolescents most commonly use alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco
- Around two in ten 12th graders say they’ve used prescription medicine without a prescription
- By 12th grade, around two-thirds of students say they’ve tried alcohol
- Among 9th through 12th-grade students, around half say they’ve used marijuana
- People aged 10 to 12 consume 1/10 of all alcohol in the U.S.
Why Teens Use Drugs
Why do teens use drugs? There is a myriad of potential reasons including:
- Peer pressure in middle school or high school
- Relief from boredom
- Anxiety and stress relief
- Pain relief
- To feel independent or more like an adult
Some of the possible risk factors of teen drug use include:
- Problems in school such as low grades
- Being a victim of bullying
- Low self-esteem
- Familial drug or alcohol use
- Not understanding the risks of drugs or alcohol
Importance of Teen Drug Prevention
Dr. Joseph Shrand is the creator of the Drug Story Theater, which he launched in 2010 with his daughter Sophie Shrand. Dr. Shrand is a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School, and slides are also used during the performance and reinforced by the actors. Actors and participants in the Drug Story Theater believe that teen drug prevention is critical. The idea is that when kids have the knowledge, they’re more likely to then have the necessary coping skills to make informed decisions.
Schwan, Henry. “Drug Story Theater tells students the perils of substance abuse.” Metro West Daily News, September 20, 2019. Accessed November 4, 2019.
Drug Story Theater. “About Drug Story Theater.” Accessed November 4, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Teen Substance Use & Risks.” April 1, 2019. Accessed November 4, 2019.
Get Smart About Drugs. “Why Do Teens Use Drugs?” August 14, 2018. Accessed November 4, 2019.