To educate youth with factual information about drug and alcohol use. The workshops increase the capacity of Peer Leaders to provide information and education to their peers about drugs and alcohol and engage participants in discussion.
The objectives of this session are to provide YARD peers with:
- An overview of drug basics – such as how do drugs work, how do drugs move through the body, the effects of drug use over time, and what happens to the body when we stop taking drugs
- An overview of addiction – what addiction is, the basics of the neural circuits of pleasure, how personality, life experience and mental illness have a role in drug addiction
- An overview of where drugs fit into the drug classification system and the general effects that drugs in these classes have on the brain, body and behaviour (alcohol, ecstasy/MDMA, hallucinogens, inhalants, marijuana, opiates, sedatives, steroids, stimulants)
- An opportunity to discuss the myths and stereotypes about drug and alcohol use and people with addictions
- All active members of the YARD program
- Verify established rules with the group for safety (incorporate participants’ input and the non-negotiable rules that will be in place whenever groups are delivered)
- Time frame for groups will be 100-120 minutes; breaks scheduled at half way through the group; breaks may also be needed to defuse situations where group dynamics need to be refocused/re-established
Outline and content:
Part 1- Warm Up Activity: Clearing up Stereotypes
Ask participants “what is a stereotype?”
Stereotype– A stereotype is a belief that may be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things, but that belief may or may not accurately reflect reality (for example, all police officers like donuts). Many of these misconceptions are the result of the repeated portrayal of alcoholic and drug user stereotypes in movies and books. The drama associated with these illusions is usually more interesting than the reality. The trouble with these falsehoods is that they have been repeated so often that they are believed to be true.
Let the participants know that the following exercise will help to clear up a few myths/stereotypes
Ask participants what they think of the following statements:
MYTH: If someone has passed out drunk, the best thing to do is to put them to bed and let them sleep it off.
REALITY: Someone who has passed out drunk is at risk. The amount of alcohol it takes to make someone pass out is close to the amount that will cause death. Their body will continue to process any drinks taken just before they passed out, possibly increasing their blood alcohol to the point that they may go into cardiac arrest. Also, if they throw up while passed out they could choke and die. Do not leave someone who has passed out alone. They need to be watched over until they have returned to consciousness, or until medical assistance arrives.
MYTH: Alcohol use is not as dangerous as drug use.
REALITY: Although the perception is that drug use is much more dangerous than alcohol use, every year there are many times more alcohol related deaths than there are drug related deaths.
MYTH: Addiction is primarily the result of personal and moral weakness.
REALITY: Different people have different susceptibility to drugs or alcohol. Genetics, family culture and personal choices all contribute to addiction. In addition, the effect of some drugs on the brain chemistry makes them highly addictive. It makes no difference if you are rich or poor, educated or not, moral or immoral, anyone can become drug or alcohol dependent, depending on their genetic predisposition and personal situation.
MYTH: Alcoholics and drug addicts could just choose to stop if they wanted.
REALITY: Without supports, some alcoholics or drug users can quit on their own. It is not simply a matter of will power. Think about anything in your life that you willed yourself to do – lose weight, exercise more, eat better, stop smoking, etc. – the odds are that just willing it to happen did not work for long. Without changes to living conditions, strong supports and information about how to keep off of drugs or alcohol, very few people can stop using. Recovery from addiction is a whole life change that takes treatment and support.
MYTH: Alcohol causes alcoholism and drugs cause drug addiction.
REALITY: If this were true, anyone who ever had a drink would become an alcoholic and anyone who ever used drugs would become an addict. For whatever reasons (genetics, family/environment & choices), some individuals are more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol than others.
At this point, ask youth for input: Can anyone think of any other myths or stereotypes regarding drug or alcohol use that they want to share?
Part 2 – an overview of where drugs fit into the drug classification system and how they affect the body
On the white board place the headings:
- Club Drugs
- Dissociative Drugs
- Other Compounds
Ask the youth if they ever heard of these words and if they can explain anything about them (the Effects/health risks, what they do the body) without listing off any drugs that are associated with each of the categories.
- Alcohol in low doses causes euphoria, relaxation, lowered inhibitions; in high doses, causes drowsiness, slurred speech, nausea, loss of coordination, visual distortions ( use the NIDA hand out for examples if need be)
- Cannabinoids- euphoria, relaxation, slowed reaction time, impaired balance and coordination, increased heart rate and appetite, impaired learning, anxiety, panic attacks
- Opioids-euphoria, drowsiness, impaired coordination, dizziness, confusion, nausea, sedation, heaviness in the body, slowed breathing
- Stimulants- increased heart rate and blood pressure, higher body temp, metabolism, feelings of exhilaration, increased energy and mental alertness, irritability, anxiety, paranoia
- MDMA- mild hallucinogenic effects, increased tactile sensitivity, empathetic feelings, lowered inhibition, anxiety, chills, sweating, teeth clenching
- Club drugs- GHB- drowsiness, nausea, headache, disorientation, loss of coordination
- Dissociative Drugs- feelings of being separate from one’s body, impaired motor function, anxiety tremors, numbness, memory loss and nausea, dizziness, slurred speech, aggression
- Hallucinogens-altered state of perception and feelings- increased body temp, heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite, sweating, sleeplessness, numbness, dizziness, and rapid shifts in emotion
- Other compounds – steroids-intoxication effects, blood clotting and cholesterol changes, hostility and aggression, acne, premature stoppage of growth, prostate cancer
- Inhalants- loss of inhibition, headache, nausea, slurred speech, weakness, depression, wheezing/cramps, and memory impairment
(See NIDA handout acute Effects/Health risks for information on this).
Next, name various names of drugs; ask youth to name which category it goes under and then have the youth write/place them in the correct category (also using the NIDA hand out as a guide)
For example in no particular order:
- Ketamine- dissociative
- Heroin- opioids
- Cocaine- stimulants
- LSD- Hallucinogens
- Inhalants-other compounds
- GHB- club drugs
- MDMA-Club drugs
Once this is done, ask the youth if they can think or know of any other substances and ask the group which category each would be under. For instance, hashish, opium, amphetamine, PCP, salvia, mescaline and steroids.
Hand out the NIDA-common-drug-chart-handout to participants, so they can have more detailed information
10-15 minute break
Part 3- How do drugs work? How do drugs move through the body?
Ask participants if they can list ways that drugs are introduced to the body, essentially how people get high and if they can provide an example of a drug used for each way:
- Ingested/ Swallowed- Alcohol/ various pills, MDMA
- Injected in a vein-meth
- What about a drug that is injected in a muscle-ketamine/steroids
- Booty Bumping
Animated Clip: Let participants know that we are going to watch a little animated clip showing three of the most popular methods of using drugs and how it works
Drugs in the body – legal drugs
- Ingesting drugs effects on your body- clip on page 7
- How smoking affects your body –clip on page 8
- How injecting affects your body – clip on page 9
- Explain the following concepts while showing the clips.
How do drugs affect the brain?
Once in the brain drugs affect chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals that control the flow of information within the brain between the neurons or brain cells, forming a synapse. Neurotransmitters also alter people’s moods and feelings. Different drugs can affect different neurotransmitters. For example, ecstasy appears to affect a neurotransmitter called serotonin by reducing the amount of the chemical in the brain. Those people with lower levels of serotonin in the brain tend to suffer from depression and also there are concerns that taking too much ecstasy for too long might make a person chronically depressed.
How do Drugs affect the heart?
Once drugs are taken and enter the bloodstream the heart pumps blood containing the drug to the brain where it will affect how people feel.
Drugs can also have an effect on the heart directly and exacerbate heart disease. Heavy drinking of alcohol, for example, can weaken the heart’s ability to pump blood and lead to heart failure although some studies have suggested that moderate consumption may be better for the heart than not drinking alcohol at all.
Taking regular and high doses of stimulant drugs like amphetamine, cocaine/ crack, ecstasy, anabolic steroids and even possibly caffeine may increase the risk of heart attacks, especially for people who already have heart problems or high blood pressure.
The effects on the liver
The liver breaks down or alters the chemical structure of drugs, gradually neutralizing the effects of the drug.
Excessive, long term drinking of alcohol can result in damage to the liver, including cirrhosis, which can be fatal.
Suggestions that ecstasy use can damage the liver have been made but research is, so far, inconclusive.
The effects on the lungs
Because the lungs provide the oxygen directly and very effectively to the body, anything that is inhaled similarly enters the blood and ultimately the brain very quickly. This is most pronounced in drugs that are normally snorted but are chemically altered to make them easier to smoke, such as cocaine into crack and amphetamine into methamphetamine. The lungs’ ability to absorb large amounts of these drugs in a short space of time, roughly 8 seconds, mean that the effects can be almost instant and very powerful.
Some drugs can also be inhaled, such as solvents and poppers/nitrites. Solvents are absorbed into the lungs almost instantly.
Another relatively more dangerous method is insufflation. This is the method often used by asthma sufferers when using inhalers, where a fine spray is rapidly inhaled into the lungs. Done properly this method is as efficient as smoking, but safer, because it doesn’t damage the lungs in the same way smoke does. Done wrongly and it can cause permanent damage to the lungs due to the drug attacking the lungs’ cells bronchi’s, or even suffocation or overdosing, due to the drugs clogging the bronchi’s.
These methods should not to be confused with snorting (as with cocaine or amphetamine powder) which is absorbed through the thin tissue (nasal membrane) in the nose into the blood stream – though some powder can enter the lungs.
Ask participants if they know the difference between substance use and addiction?
The difference between substance use and addiction is very slight. Substance use means using an illegal substance or using a legal substance in the wrong way.
You can use a drug (or alcohol) without having an addiction. For example, just because Sara smoked pot a few times doesn’t mean that she has an addiction, but it does mean that she’s using a drug — and that could lead to an addiction. People can get addicted to all sorts of substances. When we think of addiction, we usually think of alcohol or illegal drugs. But people become addicted to prescription medications, cigarettes, even glue! The effects of drug use vary from person to person, particularly when individuals just start consuming certain drugs. However, after long periods of continued use, the majority of individuals who take both prescription and/or recreational drugs have a high likelihood of becoming addicted.
Ask participants: Can you become addicted after only using once or twice?
YES! Some people have the ability to use prescription and recreational drugs with little to no hazardous effects while others can become addicted to a particular drug after using it one time. And some substances are more addictive than others: drugs like crack or heroin are so addictive that they might only be used once or twice before the user loses control.
Addiction means a person has no control over whether he or she uses a drug or drinks. Someone who is addicted to cocaine has grown so used to the drug that he or she has to have it. Drug use and addiction can change a person’s entire life within a very short time period. As a person begins to form a physical and emotional dependency on a particular drug, he or she feels a powerful urge to consume the drug regularly. The extent of an individual’s vulnerability to his or her drug addiction depends on a wide variety of factors, including the person’s genes, mental health, physical health, and environment. Addiction can be physical, psychological, or both.
Ask participants if they know what being physically dependent means?
Being physically addicted means a person’s body actually becomes dependent on a particular substance. Smoking is an example of physical addiction. It also means the body builds tolerance to that substance, so that a person needs a larger dose than ever before to get the same effects.
Someone who is physically addicted and stops using a substance like drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes may experience withdrawal symptoms.
Ask participants if anyone knows what some typical withdrawal symptoms would be?
Common symptoms of withdrawal are diarrhea, shaking, and generally feeling awful.
The other type of dependence is psychological dependence. Ask participants if they know what it means?
Psychological addiction happens when the cravings for a drug are psychological or emotional. People who are psychologically addicted feel overcome by the desire to have a drug. Like physical addiction, they may lie or steal to get it.
A person crosses the line between use and addiction when he or she is no longer using the drug to have fun or get high, but has come to depend on it. His or her whole life centers on the need for the drug. An addicted person — whether it’s a physical or psychological addiction or both — no longer feels like there is a choice in taking a substance.
- White board or flip chart
- Handouts for this workshop – NIDA common drug chart handout
At the end of the session, provide each peer with a copy of the evaluation form and explain that evaluations will be an ongoing important part of each training session to improve where necessary and plan for future programs.
Refer to Module Evaluation 9.11 Appendix K