Drug Story Theater puts addiction center stage

May 17, 2016

With Drug Story Theater, teens tell their own stories of drug abuse, overdoses and recovery.

On Monday night the program came to Old Rochester Regional High School with a sobering message.

“We’re peers talking to peers. It’s what we went through very recently, that’s what makes it so powerful,” said Michael, one member of the theater.

All of the teens have been part of High Point Treatment Center’s CASTLE program (Clean And Sober Teens Living Empowered) and have been sober a short period of time.

Dr. Joseph Shrand, a psychiatrist at the Brockton center helped to conceive of the theater program as a way to affirm teens recovering from addiction and to present their real life experiences in the hopes that others will not go down the same destructive path.

The program was a series of skits that illustrated how the teens got involved with alcohol and drugs and what transpired after – from Shana, who ate leaves to mask the smell of alcohol on her breath to Melvin, whose anxiety and depression prompted his drug abuse.

The students said they didn’t think they would end up addicted when they started taking drugs.

“We never want to think it could be us,” said Michael. “Nobody is immune from it. It’s about the behaviors, not what you think of yourself.”

Throughout the program, the students stopped to explain how drugs change the brain and cause addiction.

The students tried to dispel the myth that marijuana is harmless, saying it led to increasingly addictive drugs.

Said Dr. Shrand, “Ninety-nine percent of kids we treat for heroin started with weed.”

He said the efforts to legalize marijuana are akin to the Marlboro Man advertisements for cigarettes.

“It’s the biggest marketing ploy I’ve ever seen.”

Three parents were in the program with their kids, and they also got a chance to speak. During a Q&A time, one dad said he wished he had been more proactive.

“We’ve done a lot of things with our children, but I never educated them,” said Gerry, who has two sons in recovery.

His wife Lisa said, “I should have trusted my gut from the get go. I wanted so badly to believe everything they told me.”

That’s why parents need to address the issues when kids are young, including identifying behaviors such as anxiety before it leads to destructive behaviors.

For addicts, Dr. Shrand said, "the price you pay is trust."

But they need a supportive community to return to after treatment where they can rebuild what was lost.

“Sobriety is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “This is not something you do alone.”

Since starting the Drug Story Theater about a year and a half ago, the teens have spoken to more than 9,000 people, and Shrand wants to see the program replicated in other places across the country and even the globe, with local teens sharing their stories in their own cultures.

Lisa said they’ve already seen a positive impact.

“It starts a dialog that we’ve seen spread like wildfire,” she said.

To learn more about Drug theater, contact info@drugstorytheater.org. Confidential inquiries can also be made to Dr. Shrand at DrShrand@drugstorytheater.org.