On PBS (Check local listings)

A half hour special from In the Mix, the award winning PBS series

Drug abuse among young people in the U.S. has become a fact of life. Teenagers in urban, suburban, and rural areas alike are experimenting with and getting addicted to a growing variety of substances beginning at younger and younger ages, knowing less and less about the dangerous realities of drug use. In this program, Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), gives viewers the hard truth about how drugs affect the mind and body, breaking down common myths and misconceptions. Also featured are teens speaking candidly about the lasting – and sometimes tragic – consequences of substance abuse on their lives. The aim is to present a gritty, unfiltered look at the often devastating consequences of drug abuse without being judgmental, and to help young people understand that the sooner they know the facts, the sooner they can make the right decisions about their lives.

How to Use this Program:

Studies conducted by RMC Research on earlier In the Mix specials have shown that these programs engage the interest of teenagers, deliver information, catalyze discussion on critical issues, as well as promote analytical thinking and a greater sense of self-efficacy among teens. The aim is to encourage thought and allow teens to generate their own creative solutions.

In this guide, we have outlined specific questions based on the program’s content, with answers; these questions can be used to open up more analytical discussion about related concepts. Also included are in-class activities and longer-term projects which are presented in bold type.

Did you know?

In the Mix Awards

•1999 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Honor Roll of Quality Youth Programming

•1997 International Prix Danube for Children's Television

•1997 New York Emmy for Children's Programming

•1996 Finalist, The New York Festivals

•1994 National Emmy for Community Service Programming

•1993 Finalist, Prix Jeunesse

•1992 CPB Gold Award

Drug Abuse: Altered States contains four major sections, plus a reference summary of drug types and their effects, as well as a list of resources.




Name some of the drugs mentioned by teens in the show.

(alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, crack, dust (PCP), mushrooms, acid (LSD), peyote, Ecstasy)

What are some other drugs you’ve heard of?

(crystal meth, inhalants, etc.)

Related Activity:

Divide the class into teams and assign each a different type of commonly abused substances: Marijuana; Opiates; Inhalants; Hallucinogens; Stimulants. Have them research the characteristics of each category of substance, including the ways they affect the brain and body, and which commonly known drugs fall into which category. Share results on a blackboard or have teams present their findings.


Many of the teens in the show talk about the influences around them that contributed to their drug use. What are these influences?

(the image of models, movie stars and rock stars doing drugs leads to the idea that it makes you "cool"; use by friends or classmates can make you feel like you have to act like them; parties and other gatherings where it’s assumed drugs are the only way to have a good time)

Further Discussion:

Where have you heard about these drugs in the media? In movies and on television? Music lyrics? Books? Magazines? Discuss some specific examples.

Further Discussion:

One teen talks about "peer pressure" and "self-pressure". What’s the difference between these? Why is it hard to tell the difference sometimes? Is one more likely to lead people to bad choices?

Further Discussion:

Several of the teens talk about parents who may know there’s drug use going on in their homes. Why do you think parents ignore drug use or aren’t able to stop it? Do you think they are in denial about what’s going on, or that they feel they can’t control this type of activity? Are these parents responsible for what happens to these teens? Do they have an obligation to intervene or alert authorities? Why or why not? What do you think of "host laws" that allow parents to be prosecuted or sued if drug use goes on under their roof, whether they’re aware of it or not?



Beth and Melissa, the two girls who talk about their drug use, live in a suburban area. Did it surprise you to see that? Do you think that there’s anywhere in this country where a teenager has no exposure or access to drugs? How prevalent is it – or how prevalent do you think it is — in your town or school?

(the reality is, if a teenager anywhere wants to try drugs, they can find a way to obtain some)

Related Activity:

Assign students or groups of students a country other than the United States. Include a cross-section of countries from Europe, Asia, South America, etc. Have students research statistics and trends about drug use in their assigned country. Compare the findings as a class and discuss.


These teens talk about how they and their friends never considered the risks involved in doing drugs. Based on their comments and your own experiences, why do you think this happens?

(drugs cause you to be focused on the moment and unable to think about what will happen tomorrow, let alone months or years in the future; kids don’t get the right information; there are many existing myths and misconceptions that get passed by word of mouth; if people see one person use drugs without it seeming to affect them, they might think drug experimentation is harmless and won’t lead to addiction)







Art Alexakis from Everclear admits that he used drugs from the time he was 8 until the age of 23. How will his drug abuse stay with him forever?

(he gets panic attacks and severe depression, part of a permanent chemical imbalance caused by his former drug abuse)

Related Activity:

Art makes the point that you need help if you are addicted and want to kick the habit—you simply can’t do it alone. Have students research where teens can get help in your community, as well as what to do if a friend is addicted. Compile a handbook of resources and guidelines to be distributed and available at the school and other local facilities, such as the library or youth centers.


Dr. Alan Leshner from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows CAT scans that demonstrate how cocaine can produce negative feelings and emotions after you’ve stopped it. Based on the pictures he shows, why does this happen?

(drugs reduce brain activity)

Related Activity:

(on Marijuana)

Explain to students that marijuana use affects the five senses, heart rate, emotions, memory, and judgement. Ask students to randomly select (for example, draw from a hat) the name of an occupation, and ask them to act out for the class how marijuana use might specifically affect the performance of a person in the occupation. For example, an airline pilot, professional basketball player, doctor, truck driver, etc.


How have Beth and Melissa’s lives been affected physically by their use?

(they can’t remember large stretches of time; they suffer from depression and are in therapy)


Dr. Leshner talks about the brain getting "hijacked" by drugs. Based on what Donna at the Treatment Center describes, do you think that’s an accurate description of what happened to her?

(she talks about acting only on impulses, that your brain tells you that it’s not functioning without drugs and you must get some to feel better)


Is addiction a mental thing or a physical thing? (physical)

Are people who are addicted to drugs just short on "will power" or "too weak" to control their urges?

(no; the craving for a drug becomes a physical need, much like the body’s need for food and water; because the drugs actually change the way your brain functions)


How did Donna’s addiction affect the rest of her body as she went through withdrawal?

(she felt sharp pains throughout her body; she’d be cold one minute, then break into a sweat)


According to Dr. Leshner, does everyone have the same physical risk of getting addicted to drugs?

(no; some people are more vulnerable to it, but you’ll never know if you will get addicted more quickly than others)

Further Discussion:

Why do people feel like they have to "experiment" with drugs? Are there other things you can "experiment" with to feel like you’ve had an adventure, that you’ve accomplished something, that you’ve met a challenge and really "lived"? Name something you’ve done in your life that you consider an "experiment". Are you glad you tried it?


Why do some people suffer from depression after drug use?

(if you’re at risk for depression because of your genes or life situation, some drugs can push you into serious clinical depression)


Nora, the young woman in the hospital found out that she’s someone who is at risk. How did she discover that? How is she still feeling the effects of her experimentation with LSD?

(after just two uses, she suffered a disorienting "flashback"; got very depressed and had low energy, experienced mood swings; couldn’t communicate; had to be admitted to a hospital; will be on medication for months)


What is an LSD flashback? Why might a flashback be dangerous?

(Acid gets stored in fat tissue, and since there are fat tissues in your brain, the LSD can sit there for a long time and leak out unexpectedly, causing hallucinations at any random time; flashbacks may occur while driving or other circumstances that may put you in danger)

Further Discussion:

Many people think that a flashback is like an extra "surprise trip" and something to look forward to, but in reality can be embarrassing, traumatic, and can cause psychological problems. What are some other myths that surround drug use?

Related Activity:

As a class, put together a list of commonly assumed or often-heard facts relating to drug use that might be misconceptions. Then divide the class into teams and assign each team one or more "myths" to research as true or false. Have teams report their findings to the class.


Related Activity:

Based on the teams created for the five categories of substances in the previous section, ask each group of students to research their assigned category and create a "Did You Know" poster for each type of drug. Encourage students to discover some "surprising" information to include on their poster, and ask that each poster contain a minimum of 10 new and/or unusual facts. Students can use the library, Internet, or other resources. Display the finished posters in school and/or hand out as flyers.





What is Boot Camp like for David, John, and Donald?

(no freedom; can’t go outside at will; have to ask for permission to do everything; have to keep everything clean; have to wake up early; have to learn discipline)


David says that even though he’s serving time for criminal possession of crack and marijuana, originally he never thought he’d be a crack user and actually looked down on people who did. What do you think could have led him to where he is now?

(he probably tried it once or twice as "experimentation"; he got addicted; before he knew it he was using regularly)


David talks about what happened one night after he and his friends were out drinking, and he thought he was okay to drive home. Does he feel that drinking too much that night was what led him directly to jail?

(no; the drinking led to bad choices; he chose to drive while drunk; got into a car accident that killed his friends but left him uninjured)

Further Discussion:

How else is David going to be "paying" for his mistake for the rest of his life? Do you think that guilt and grief over injuring or killing someone else is worse than spending time in prison? Do you think that people consider their responsibilities to others when engaging in dangerous activities?


Donald used to get drugs on credit, and John used to sleep late and party all day. How did this behavior ultimately get them into trouble and change their lives?

(Donald didn’t pay back his drugs right away and the dealers threatened his life; John would get violent and arrested again and again, got probation but violated it when he failed a drug test)

Related Activity:

Through a local police department or juvenile detention center, arrange to have a young person who is serving time for a drug-related crime speak to the class about his or her experiences. Ask a police officer to explain the legal consequences of being caught with drugs.


Dr. Leshner says that heroin slows down the way your mind is processing information, and Donna talks about how sniffing heroin kept her from being able to think, feel, or react to her surroundings normally. Ultimately, how did this change her life?

(Donna was raped; she felt it happening but was unable to do anything about it; she still doesn’t know who the rapist was)


Further Discussion:

The fact that Donna was raped is an example of how the lack of control that comes with drug use can lead to many unseen dangers and traumas. What are some other situations that could take place when drug use is involved—situations that many people don’t usually consider?


The two suburban girls, Beth and Melissa, never had to serve time in a boot camp, but how have their lives been changed forever?

(Melissa ruined her reputation; she had to have her mother supervise her attendance at a school dance; Beth suffers from chronic depression; has family problems; has to repeat classes and won’t graduate on time)


What hard lessons have the boys at the Boot Camp learned from their experiences?

(they lost years when they could have been doing something important and positive; the price of getting high can mean losing everything you have; they finally learned to stop making bad choices)

Further Discussion:

What could have been done differently in these young people’s lives to keep them from ending up serving time or in rehab? What do you think works when it comes to teaching young people the dangers of drug use and helping them make better choices?

Related Activity:

Pair students up and ask them to role-play a situation where one student is a parent, teacher, or counselor. Give the role-playing student five minutes (or less) to give the other essential information and advice that might help them choose to abstain from drug use.




Please note: This segment was included on the broadcast special but may not be on the distributed video.


What is Straight Edge?

(a growing popular movement/counterculture; not an organization or "cult"; it’s been around since 1981, started by a hardcore music group called Minor Threat; it’s a philosophy that promotes abstaining from drugs, alcohol, and smoking)

Further Discussion:

The Straight Edge teens talk about being "different" and "veering off from the crowd" because of their attitudes about smoking, drinking, and drug use. In what situations would you find it preferable to be different from everyone else?


These teens say that they are "rebelling". What or who are they rebelling against?

(they are rebelling against the myths that it’s "cool" to smoke, drink, or use drugs; their music and dress are alternative so they are still rebelling against some conventions)


Can you be "Straight Edge" if you don’t like hardcore music or don’t want to dress the way these kids do?

(yes; all these kids say that the Straight Edge philosophy is something inside you; focus on who you are and what you feel, rather than labeling yourself)

Further Discussion:

Is Straight Edge becoming a common term to describe teens who don’t use drugs? Is it something you can say if you’re offered drugs?


How are the teens on the show going to avoid drug use in the future?

(they won’t spend time with friends who still use drugs; they won’t put themselves in situations where drug use is expected; they’ll make an active effort to make the right choices)



MARIJUANA (also Hash)

Short-term effects:

Long-term effects:


(Cocaine, Crack Cocaine)

Physical risks:

Psychological risks:

Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth), Amphetamines (Speed)




PCP (Angel Dust); LSD (Acid); Mescaline; Peyote; Mushrooms

Physical risks:

Psychological risks:


Chemicals found in consumer products such as aerosols and cleaning solvents.

Single-time use risks:

Short-term effects:


Prolonged use risks:







National Institute on Drug Abuse


* http://www.nida.nih.gov

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
1-800-729-6686 or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD)


Office of Science Education
National Institutes of Health

Society for Neuroscience
Education Program


On the World Wide Web

Partnership for a Drug Free America


Resources for parents and teens, information about current drugs street names and effects. Programs and initiatives and other anti-drug programs. http://www.drugfree/


National Institute on Drug Abuse
Information on drugs of abuse, NIDA publications and communications, agency events, and links to other drug-related Internet sites.

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
Information on publications, calendars, and related Internet sites, as well as "For Kids Only" materials including games, "really cool" links, and an "Are you Curious? Ask US!" page that allows visitors to ask experts questions about drugs.

Snapshots of Medicine and Health

National Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA)


Provides information about recent publications, current research, and online resource links.

The American Council for Drug Education


Offers an extensive library of substance abuse education and prevention information for kids and adults, as well as a resource list of prevention materials and videos.

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)

A meeting place for individuals and organizations looking for information on current substance abuse policy and public affairs.


Neuroscience for Kids
Answers to commonly-asked questions about the brain and neuroscience, with information on brain and spinal cord anatomy and physiology, neurotransmission, and the effects of specific drugs on the nervous system.


Society for Neuroscience Brain Briefings
Access to Society for Neuroscience publications covering topics such as addiction, opiate receptors, and the effects of various drugs on the brain and behavior.

Extensive lists of Internet resources and links to Internet sites devoted to neuroscience and drugs of abuse.

Wisconsin/Michigan State Brain Collections
A visual tour of photos and brain sections of mammalian brains, with related information on brain anatomy, brain functions, and neuroanatomy.

Straight Edge






Brain Facts: A primer on the
Brain and Nervous System,
Society for Neuroscience, 1993.

How your Brain Works, by
Anne D. Novitt-Morino, M.D., Ziff-
Davis Press, 1995.

Explorations in Neuroscience
for Children and Adults, Baylor
College of Medicine, WOW
Publications, Inc., 1997.




For information about In the Mix, including show descriptions and schedules, visit our home on the World Wide Web at www.pbs.org/mix, or e-mail us at InTheMix@pbs.org.

A special Altered States section on our website serves as an online companion to this program, featuring.

Drug Abuse: Altered States carries one-year off-air taping rights and performance rights. Check your local PBS listings for airtimes.

Videotape copies of the program can be purchased for $69.95 (plus $5.00 shipping and handling per order; Includes performance rights, and a Discussion Guide), and can be ordered by sending a check or purchase order to: In the Mix, 114 E. 32 Street, Suite 903, New York, NY 10016. There is a discount of $5.00 per tape on orders of any five or more In the Mix titles.

Other videos of interest to grades 7-12 are available on topics including: Teen Immigrants; Depression and Suicide, Gun Violence; Computer Literacy and Careers; Self-Image and the Media; Sports Participation; Media Literacy; Activism; Alcohol and DWI; Dating Violence; Getting Into College; School to Work Transition; Careers; Relationships; AIDS; and others. For a complete catalog, call: (212) 684-3940 or (800) 597-9448, or write to us at: 114 E. 32 Street, Suite 903, New York, NY 10016, or visit www.inthemix.org

c 1999 In the Mix. Drug Abuse: Altered States is a production of Castle Works Inc. In the Mix was created by WNYC Radio. This special was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.