A Firsthand Look Into Adolescent Addiction
How do adults talk to their teenage children about drugs? It’s a question almost as old as time itself. If adolescents even get a whiff of “adult BS,” they stop listening faster than you can say, “drugs are bad.”
Well, thanks to Dr. Joe Shrand and a project called the Drug Story Theater, adolescents are able to learn what drug addiction is really like.
Drug Story Theater is a production staring teenagers in recovery and it’s designed to let teens reach out to other teens about the dangers of addiction in a way that’ll hold their attention and teach them something. All stories featured are actual events that have happened to the teenage actors.
Dr. Shrand is the medical director of a Brockton, MA treatment center called C.A.S.T.L.E. (Clean And Sober Teens Living Empowered). He’s also the mastermind behind the Drug Story Theater. When asked about the production, he had the following to say,
“[It’s] mutually beneficial…because the audience can see a side of drugs they may not know and the actors in early recovery can spin their troubled history into something positive” (Patriot Ledger).
What’s Drug Story Theater All About?
The Drug Story Theater sounds pretty innovative, right? It is! It’s the first project of its kind – something that lets teenagers who’ve struggled with addiction turn their demons to hope, on stage, for other teenagers.
That’s the definition of one addict helping another stay clean!
Right now, there are five recovering teenagers and two parents involved in the show. They all share the spotlight with at least one unique story. Some of the teenagers involved are as young as fourteen.
According to one of the parents, Drug Story Theater doesn’t only help the teenage actors and the adolescents in the audience. It also allows parents of addicted or at risk teens find some much needed solidarity and learn they’re not alone in their struggles.
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So far, the production is only based in Massachusetts. It gathers its teenage actors from across the southern MA area, including Boston, Quincy, Marshfield, Brockton, and yes, Gloucester.
That could all change soon though. The program is state-funded for the modest sum of $50,000. It’s enjoyed bipartisan support in the Massachusetts’ legislature and is ready to be implemented around the country.
According to Dr. Shrand,
“If half the public schools in the United States put $2,500 in their budget for Drug Story Theater, that could mean a $20 million education fund for kids in recovery…That’s pretty cool and that doesn’t count the money we’re going to save in prevention for all these kids” (Patriot Ledger).
The Lesson Other States Can Learn
And here’s where things get really interesting. Other states can learn a few lessons from Massachusetts’ latest anti-drug success story.
First and foremost, it doesn’t take a monumental sum of money to effect real change in adolescent drug use patterns. Rather than petition the state for a six or seven digit paycheck, Shrand put something together using what he had. He took the resources at his disposal and created an effective substance abuse education program.
Second, the Drug Story Theater is firmly rooted in the local community. All the actors, teenage and adult, are from the southern MA area. All know the devastating impact that painkillers, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and synthetic drugs have had on locals’ lives.
This fosters a sense of urgency and service that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Think about the historical impact small groups of citizens have had on their communities. Grassroots activism is incredibly powerful and one of the main ways local change is effected.
Finally, other states can learn a lesson in innovation from Drug Story Theater, its stars, and Dr. Shrand. Who would have thought that a stage production, regarded by many as out of date, could have such a large and positive effect on teenagers?
Well it is and that’s something we can all celebrate.