ECSTASY
DISCUSSION GUIDE

On PBS (Check local listings)
A half hour special from In the Mix, the award winning weekly PBS series

Ecstasy (MDMA) and other drugs like ketamine, rohypnol and GHB have spread beyond clubs and raves to use at home and school. The word among teens is that they're not "serious" drugs; they're not addictive and using them can't get anyone into trouble. This In the Mix special, co-hosted by actor Erika Christiansen, explores the physical, emotional, and legal realities of "E" by combining hard facts from the experts with the personal experiences of young people whose drug use caused serious problems. The goal is to enable viewers to separate myth from fact, and empower them to make informed decisions about club drugs.

How to Use this Program:
Studies conducted by RMC Research on previous 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 programís 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 that are presented in bold type. We suggest showing the entire program to the group and then running individual segments followed by discussion.

Did you know?

In the Mix Awards

This guide to ECSTASY contains four major sections which include questions, discussion topics, and activities, as well as a list of resources.

 

SECTION ONE
IN THE BEGINNING

A group of teenagers at a residential treatment program talk about how they started using Ecstasy and other club drugs, and how their use escalated.

Question:
What are some of the reasons mentioned by the teens when they talk about why they first started using ecstasy?
they wanted to try something new; wanted to be cool and fit in at a new school; were curious about it; they had already been using other drugs like marijuana; their friends or boyfriends/girlfriends pressured them into trying it

Further Discussion:
Where have you heard about club drugs in the media? In movies and on television? Music lyrics? Books? Magazines? Discuss some specific examples. How does the media glamorize club drugs?

Further Discussion:
According to the ONDCPís "2000 Pulse Check" report, Ecstasy (MDMA) abuse and trafficking is expanding, no longer confined to the "rave" scene. Where else is ecstasy being sold and used? (for example: schools, school-sponsored events, streets, small parties)

Related Activity:
Create three columns on the board and label them, "Small", "Medium", and "Big". As a group, brainstorm types of decisions that teens make in their lives and decide which column each decision belongs in. Then, discuss how these decisions were categorized. Is a decision "small" because it only takes a moment to make, or because its results are minor? Talk about the effects of each decision and whether its category matches its possible consequences.

Question:
Why was it easier for the teens to engage in risky behavior that they would never have been involved in if they hadn't been high at the time?
ecstasy makes you feel like you're safe from anything, that nothing can ever happen to you; you concentrate completely in the moment; you do things without thinking

Further Discussion:
The fact that Ashley had to get an HIV test after unprotected sex, and Michelleís friend was killed in DUI-related car accident, are two examples 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? What are some situations that many people might not consider in the heat of the moment?

Question:
Ecstasy is often mixed with other things like Ajax, rat poison, speed, etc. Why is it unlikely that an ecstasy pill might be pure MDMA?
it gets passed down from person to person, and each person has the opportunity to cut it with whatever they want to increase the profits; logos donít tell you anything about the content of the pill; there's no way to tell from looking at the pill whether it's "real" or not

Question:
Why do people who make ecstasy stamp each pill with a logo or symbol?
they want to make a pill seem cool or desirable by associating it with something thatís popular with teens; many kids will choose one pill over another simply because of what's stamped on it, or they wrongly believe a specific logo indicates quality

Further Discussion:
Explain to students that a 1999 national government survey found that more than 70% of young people aged 12-17 have never used an illegal drug. Does this seem accurate based on your experiences? Does it seem to fit with what you've heard? Why would it seem like there are more teenagers who have tried illegal drugs?

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?

SECTION TWO
ECSTASY VS. YOUR BODY

Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes and demonstrates the effect that club drugs have on the body. The teens in rehab reveal how drug use took a mental and physical toll on their lives.

Question:
According to Dr. Leshner, ecstasy works by releasing seratonin and dopamine to your brain. What happens next?
the combination of the two chemicals spiking causes a feeling of "euphoria", or extreme joy

Question:
What happens after the euphoria wears off?
the level of the two chemicals actually drops lower than it was before the drug was taken

Question:
How did Michelle and the other teens feel during this low period?
they were miserable; they'd sit in their room for hours; the depression they felt made them crave more ecstasy to pull them out of it, which started a vicious cycle; one boy (Jim) tried to go clean by himself, but couldn't and set himself on fire

Related Activity:
Divide the class into teams and assign each a different "club drug": ecstasy, GHB, ketamine, rohypnol, methamphetamine, and LSD. Have each team research the characteristics of each drug, including how they are made and the ways they affect the brain and body. Share results on a blackboard or have teams present their findings, or have them create "Did You Know?" posters illustrating the facts they've researched.

Question:
In the brain scans of an ecstasy user three weeks after the last time they used the drug, the duller (less bright) areas represent decreased levels of seratonin, which helps control mood, sleep, memory, and sensations of pain, among other things. How will lower seratonin levels affect you?
mood: depression, problems dealing with daily life and relationships; sleep: without proper sleep cycles you will have less physical and mental energy; memory: schoolwork will suffer and you might forget everyday things like phone numbers; pain: general physical and mental well-being will be decreased

Related Activity:
Once students understand how decreased seratonin affects them, ask them to randomly select (for example, draw from a hat) the name of an occupation. Then, ask them to describe for the class how ecstasy use might specifically affect the performance of a person in the occupation. For example, an airline pilot, professional basketball player, doctor, truck driver, etc.

Question:
According to the Miami undercover police officer and Dr. Leshner, what are some possible physical reactions to ecstasy? shaking, dehydration, high body temperatures, mild heart attacks, strokes, convulsions, death

Question:
Trish and Will are volunteers with a 24-hour teen ambulance service. They urge viewers not to hesitate to call 911 if a friend is overdosing on a drug, even if it means getting them in trouble. What does Trish suggest you can do while youíre waiting for help to arrive?
stay with your friend; if theyíre unconscious, make sure they are sitting upright or lying on their side so they donít choke on their own vomit; make sure they have an open airway and are breathing the whole time

Question:
What is ketamine normally used for?
itís a veterinary anesthetic used for surgery on animals

Question:
GHB and ketamine both work to shut down your brain chemical systems. Why would it be dangerous to combine either of these with alcohol?
alcohol also shuts down your brain; the combination means youíre shutting down your brain in two different ways and can put you into a coma

Further Discussion:
Do you think there's enough accurate information about club drugs available to teenagers? If so, where do you find this information? Where does false and misleading information come from? Think about something that you once thought was true but later found out was false. How did you find out the truth, and how did you feel? How did knowing the truth change you and your actions?

Related Activity:
As a class, put together a list of commonly assumed or often-heard facts related to club drugs 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. As an extension activity, students can create posters or a brochure to display or distribute in the school or community.

 

SECTION THREE
ECSTASY VS. THE LAW

A police officer who works undercover in Miami and Westchester County District Attorney Jeannine Pirro outline the legal consequences of getting caught possessing or using club drugs.

Question:
How real is the possibility of an undercover cop being present if you are using or possessing a club drug?
very real; they are trained to blend in while at places and among people where there are drugs; they know how people act when they are high or have drugs on them

Question:
Does law enforcement give you a break if youíre caught with just a club drug?
no; club drugs fall under the same category as heroin and cocaine; the same penalties apply if you are charged with possession or are found driving while under the influence of drugs

Question:
Does law enforcement give you a break if youíre under 18?
no; even if you are sixteen you are arrested and get a criminal record; your car will be impounded; your record may be available for future employers or colleges to examine if necessary

Related Activity:
Divide the class into teams and assign each team a different "scenario" such as: "You and your friends are driving while using ecstasy and are pulled over by police"; "You are using drugs at a rave and the location is raided by police"; etc. The teams will be required to research what will happen to the teens in each situation, according to local and state laws, then present findings to the class.

Further Discussion:
Ashley and Justin talk about their experiences in prison, and how it's something they never want to go through again. Why do you think most young people never consider prison to be a possible consequence to their actions? What is the stereotypical image of teens who end up in juvenile detention centers? Do you think it's true that anyone can end up serving time, regardless of how often they use drugs or how much they excel at school or sports? Why or why not?

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 club drugs.

SECTION FOUR
ADDICTION AND RECOVERY

Dr. Leshner explains the basics of drug addiction, while the teens talk about what brought them to the Daytop Treatment Center, what they've learned, and how they see the future.

Question:
How did some of the teens realize that they were actually addicted to ecstasy?

they realized they were doing anything to get the money to buy E, including stealing from their parents and friends; they were thinking about the drug all the time; they were increasing the amount of drugs they were taking without noticing it

Question:
According to Dr. Leshner, what is happening to your brain when you are addicted to drugs?
your brain is being changed by the drugs, so that your motivational systems are making the drug the most important thing

Further Discussion:
Meghan says she thought she "had to be thirty to be a drug addict". When you think of a "drug addict", what do you see? Name some of the characters you see on television or in recent films that are drug users, especially of ecstasy. How are they portrayed? Do you think the portrayals are realistic? Why would teens think there's no way they could ever become addicted to drugs?

Related Activity:
Invite a counselor from and/or former member of a local drug treatment program to speak to the class.

Question:
The teens ended up in rehab because their addiction brought them to the point where they couldn't stop by themselves and needed help. What are some of the things they've learned in the residential treatment program?
they can do anything they want with their future; it's possible to have fun without drugs; that what you feel on drug isnít real; certain things which are fun in the moment aren't worth the cost; it's important to be yourself and not worry about what others think

Further Discussion:
At the end of the show, host Erika Christensen says that she's able to say "no thanks" when someone offers her drugs, and that it's important to always think for yourself no matter what your friends are saying and doing. Discuss ways that teens might be able to effectively refuse an offer of drugs, and alternative ways to have a good time, in various situations, such as: "Your friends are putting pressure on you to try it"; "You're already under the influence of alcohol"; or "You're already very upset about a personal or family problem and just want to forget about it for a little while."

Related Activity:
Set up two columns on the board or an easel. Have students brainstorm reasons why a drug user might not want or be able to seek help, and write the results in the left-hand column. Then, ask students why they might hesitate to offer help to a friend abusing drugs. Write these results in the right-hand column, and compare the similarities and differences between the two sets of answers.

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 using club drugs.

Related Activity:
Several of the teens in rehab, as well as host Erika Christensen, emphasize that it's impossible to kick the habit 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.

Related Activity:
Erika also reminds viewers that if they are having personal, family, or school-related problems, drugs are not the answer-- in fact, they will eventually make them much worse. Discuss the idea of the "anti-drug": an activity that helps us express ourselves and boost our self-esteem, as well as providing an outlet for working out problems. As a class, compile a list of anti-drugs, such as: music, drawing, singing, acting, playing a sport, poetry, volunteer work, religion, etc. Ask students to identify their own "anti-drug" and have them create something (an essay, poem, poster, piece of music, etc.) that expresses how their anti-drug makes them feel and enhances their lives.

 

RESOURCES

Covenant House Nineline
(800) 999-9999- available 24hrs/7 days a week
Provides assistance and referrals dealing with critical issues (for example: drug addiction, depression and suicide)

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Phone: (888) 644-6432
Infofax: (888) NIH-NIDA
www.nida.nih.gov
Information on drugs of abuse, NIDA publications and communications, agency events, and links to other drug-related Internet sites.

www.clubdrugs.org
Information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse about drugs such as Ecstacy, GHB, and Rohypnol, whose use is especially popular at raves and dance clubs.


Office of National Drug Control Policy
www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov
Resources, statistics, prevention programs, and more.

FreeVibe
www.freevibe.com
The White House's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has developed tools and resources for teens that want to maintain a drug-free lifestyle. They help young people understand the dangers of substance abuse and make responsible decisions with their lives. The site emphasizes that the majority of kids are not involved with drugs.

The American Council for Drug Education
www.acde.org
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.

Partnership For A Drug-Free America
www.drugfreeamerica.org
Among other great resources, here you can search for facts on drugs by name, image, slang term, or paraphernalia.

Join Together Online
www.jointogether.org
Phone: (617) 437-1500
E-mail: info@jointogether.org
A national resource center for communities working to reduce substance abuse and gun violence.

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
www.health.org
Information on publications, calendars, and related Internet sites, as well as ĎFor Kids Only" materials.

Daytop Village
Daytop Village, a non-profit organization founded in 1963, is the oldest and largest drug- free, self-help program with 29 centers throughout the United States. (Featured on this program)
HOTLINE -- 1-800-2-DAYTOP
54 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Phone: (212) 354-6000
www.daytop.org

 

 

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Ecstasy carries one-year off-air taping rights and performance rights. Check your local PBS listings for airtimes.

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Other videos of interest to grades 7-12 are available on topics including: Dealing with Death; Sex and Abstinence; School Violence; Financial Literacy; Cliques; Drug Abuse; Teen Immigrants; Depression and Suicide, Gun Violence; Computer Literacy; 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, visit www.inthemix.org or www.castleworks.com; call: (212) 684-3940 or (800) 597-9448; fax us at (212) 684-4015, or write to us at: 114 E. 32 Street, Suite 903, New York, NY 10016. Visit us online at www.inthemix.org for guides, transcripts, video clips, lesson plans and other resources.

2001 In the Mix. ECSTASY is a production of Castle Works Inc. In the Mix was created by WNYC Radio. This special was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.