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Tragedy and Hope: The Cycle of Addiction Lesson

Grades 9-12 - Three class periods


Program Segments



Students will be able to:

  • Understand how families and peers influence decision making
  • Offer preventative techniques to combat the cycle of addiction


Instructional Resources



Addiction, opiates



  1. The facilitator will begin the lesson by asking students why they think people begin using drugs. For what conditions might someone be prescribed drugs by a doctor? What are the reasons for taking any sort of drugs? The facilitator will write their ideas on a Smartboard, chalkboard, or large piece of paper taped where all students can see.
  2. Then the facilitator will ask students why they think that some young people go from experimentation or social use, and even being prescribed medication by their doctor, to more serious drug dependency which can eventually result in addiction, or a physiological dependence on a given drug. What are the triggers of prescription drug abuse? The facilitator will write down any ideas students may have about why drug use escalates also on the Smartboard, chalkboard, or large piece of paper taped where all students can see.
  3. Distribute and discuss the Cycle of Addiction handout. This is a scientific theory about why the use of and experimentation with drugs can lead to addiction.
  4. After students have some understanding of the cycle of addiction, students will split up into work groups based on their Scenario worksheet. Be sure to account for class size for the groups to be even. Example: print 5 of each Scenario for a class of 20 students. Then each group will have 5 students. Choose students to read each Scenario aloud.
  5. Give students enough time to complete the Scenario worksheet and then have a class discussion about their answers.
  6.  The next class period watch the personal stories from Tragedy and Hope Stories of Painkiller Addiction.
  7. Re-distribute the completed Scenario worksheets. Discuss the video segments and the answers that the students wrote before watching the segments. Were there any surprises? What were they?
  8. In the third class period view the bonus segments The Science of Addiction and Signs & Symptoms.
  9. Then have a class discussion about some things that might benefit teens, and where they can go for help, if they are at risk for abusing drugs or prescription medications. Also, what healthy actions could any of the troubled teens from the segments take to feel better and be safe? Some things that might influence decision-making are:
    1. Involvement with family and friends
    2. Satisfaction in outside interests
    3. Able to talk about their feelings in order to ease their pain
    4. Having responsive parents, doctors or counselors to their concerns
    5. Knowing who to talk to or where to get help (a responsive teacher, counselor, parent, family member, friend)
  10. The facilitator should point out the two lists on the board that were made earlier: reasons why young people experiment or begin using drugs and why experimentation, social use or prescriptions can escalate into addiction.
  11. Have any of the items changed? Do the students now know things to add? The facilitator can add or change items and indicate “after video.”
  12. Have the students' ideas changed as a result of learning about the cycle of addiction? If so, how?
  13. What conclusions can they draw about the causes of drug use among young people?
  14. What role does family play in teen decision making? What role do peers play? What role do teachers, coaches, or other adults play?
  15. How can these influences help them make healthful choices?
  16. Do you see peer pressure as positive, negative, or both? Give examples.
  17. Describe a situation in your life where you had to make a difficult choice. What factors influenced you during that time? What choice did you make? Was the outcome positive or negative and why?
  18. Conclude the lesson by having students write an essay of a few paragraphs long. The students should imagine that they are the best friend of a teen in one of the Scenarios (be sure that they indicate who they chose in their essay). What advice would they give them? As their friend, what would they do to support them during this difficult time in their life?


Assessment Tasks

Students should actively participate in all class discussions and be a contributing member within their break out groups completing the Prescription Drug Use/Abuse Scenarios worksheets. Students will turn in completed Prescription Drug Use/Abuse Scenario worksheet and the essay.


National Health Standards

  • Standard 2 - Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.
  • Standard 4 - Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.
  • Standard 5 - Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.
  • Standard 8 - Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.


Ian's Segment

Avi and Julie's Segment

Brandie's Segment

Colleen's Segment

The Science of Addiction

Signs and Symptoms


Tragedy and Hope: Learning About Opioids Lesson

Grades 6 – 12 - Two class periods


Program Segments



Students will be able to:

  • List specific opioid prescription pain medications
  • Explain physical effects of opioid prescription pain medications
  • Express an opinion on learning about opioid addiction


Instructional Resources



Addiction, brand/trade name, generic, opiate, opioid, painkiller



  1. The facilitator will introduce the topic of painkiller addiction by showing students segments from Tragedy and Hope Stories of Painkiller Addiction.
  2. Then the facilitator will distribute the Opioid Information Sheet. After reviewing for some time, the facilitator will start a class discussion to answer any questions the students may have. Students should take notes on opioids and topics of discussion.
  3. Allow students further time to research opioid addiction.
  4. Distribute the Persuasive Essay Rubric and discuss.
  5. Students will write a persuasive essay on “why middle school students should learn about opioid addiction” or “why middle school students should not learn about opioid addiction.”


Assessment Task

Students should actively participate in class discussion and research. The students will also turn in a persuasive essay.


Extension Activity

Coordinate with a local middle school. Have students develop a presentation on opioid addiction to share with middle school students.


National Health Standards

  • Standard 1 - Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
  • Standard 3 – Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information, products, and services to enhance health.
  • Standard 8 – Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.

The Science of Addiction


Signs and Symptoms


Monday, 20 January 2014 15:43

Tragedy and Hope: Myth or Fact Lesson


Tragedy and Hope: Myth or Fact Lesson

Grades 6-12 - One class period


Program Segment



Students will be able to:

  • Explain the rates of the prescription drug epidemic
  • Recognize that continued use can cause physical dependence
  • Identify withdrawal symptoms and the seriousness of withdrawal


Instructional Resources



Addiction, drug abuse, epidemic, physical dependence, withdrawal



  1. Before the class begins, the facilitator will post the MYTH and FACT signs in opposite corners of the room.
  2. The facilitator will explain to students that a Myth or Fact statement about prescription drugs and abuse will be read aloud. After the statement is read the students will decide whether they think the statement is a Myth or Fact.
  3. Allow time for students to quickly choose a corner. After they have chosen, the facilitator will have students explain why they chose Myth or Fact.
  4. When all of the statements have been read and the decision exercise is over, have the students watch the segment from Tragedy and Hope Stories of Painkiller Addiction and take notes on what they think is most important.
  5. After watching the program segment, the facilitator will distribute the Myth or Fact Statements. Once again the Myth or Fact statements will be read but this time the facilitator will reveal to the students whether the statements were Myth or Fact and allow time for deeper discussion.
  6. Students will take home the Parent/Guardian Quiz to complete with their parent or guardian. The signed quiz should be returned in the next couple of days for part of their grade.


Assessment Task

Students should actively participate in the Myth or Fact exercise and class discussion. Students will hand in their completed Parent/Guardian Quizzes.


National Health Standards

  • Standard 7- Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks.


The Science of Addiction



Tragedy and Hope: Stories of Painkiller Addiction Educator Resources

In the last ten years, addiction to painkiller medications and prescriptions has increased 400% and taken hold in our communities. Every 19 minutes in our country, we lose a person to opiate addiction, which is no different than taking heroin.

WNED-TV’s production, Tragedy & Hope Stories of Painkiller Addiction, shares the experiences of young people from Western New York who are struggling with addiction recovery. Most of the young people are making progress towards wellness and they discuss their long term fight for recovery; others have not been as fortunate. By utilizing their personal stories backed by addiction treatment specialists, researchers and parent insights, the hope is to raise awareness and advocacy for this serious epidemic in our community. Prescription painkiller addiction has no gender, race, or social status symbolism; it can affect anyone, at any age.

Thank you for taking time to learn about this project and be willing to use these resources to make a difference in the lives of our youth. Our hope is that these materials bring awareness to this topic and offer resources for those who may find themselves caught between prescription painkiller addiction and a path to wellness. An essential part of combating this recent epidemic is awareness and education. The earlier children learn of the dangers of this kind of addiction the better.

The resources are intended to supplement the program. They are designed for a range of audiences including middle through high school students and those who come in contact with young people. The lessons and activities were created with the intent of showing all or some of the accompanying program Tragedy and Hope Stories of Painkiller Addiction. Although each set of materials has been designated for a specific audience, they were created with the understanding that they may be adapted as needed. Educators in grades 6-12 are encouraged to adopt them as they are presented in this guide, but they can be easily integrated as segments that may compliment their current subject matter content, levels of complexity, and curriculum.


Myth or Fact (grades 6-12) (whole lesson PDF)

Learning about Opioids (grades 6-12)(whole lesson PDF)

The Cycle of Addiction (grades 9-12)(whole lesson PDF)

Contemplating Nature vs. Nurture (grades 6-12)(whole lesson PDF)

Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Campaign (grades 9-12)(whole lesson PDF)

The Brain on Autopilot (grades 9-12)(whole lesson PDF)

Decisions and Consequences (grades 9-12)(whole lesson PDF)

Commitment to Recovery (grades 9-12)(whole lesson PDF)


Download the entire Educator's Guide




Additional resources:

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 16:15

Board of Trustees and Meeting Schedule




William G. Gisel, Jr.
Robert M. Greene, Esq.
Kevin T. Keane
Mary Ann Lauricella
Dennis M. Penman
Sue M. Wardynski




Chair:                   Brian E. Keating
Vice Chair:          Karen Arrison
Secretary:           Timothy W. Hoover
Treasurer:           Michael Winter



Karen Arrison                                                                
Tricia Barrett                                                                                                                    
Donald K. Boswell                                                          
Barry Brandon                                                                
David K. Chamberlain
Stephen C. Dunnett, Ph.D.                                           
Michael Giaquinto                                                         
Philip L. Glick, M.D.
Timothy W. Hoover
Maureen O. Hurley
Brian E. Keating
Tae K. Kim
Britta L. McKenna
David O'Rourke, Ph.D.
Theresa E. Quinn
John Reinhold
Michael A. Rivera
Kathleen Rizzo Young

Mary Rech Rockwell
Joseph V. Saffire
Michael Winter



Meetings of the WNY Public Broadcasting Association (WNYPBA), most of its committees, and the WNYPBA’s Community Advisory Board are open to the public. Unless otherwise specified, meetings are held at our studios located at 140 Lower Terrace, Buffalo, NY 14202. Members of the public who are interested in attending a meeting should phone Molly Oshei at (716) 845-7000.

Certain meetings, or portions of meetings, may be closed to the public to address matters relating to individual employees, proprietary information, litigation, and other matters requiring the confidential advice of counsel, commercial or financial information obtained from a person on a privileged or confidential basis, or the purchase of property or services whenever the premature exposure of such purchase would compromise the business interests of any such organization.

Board of Trustees:

July 30, 2015 at noon

Executive Committee:

October 15, 2015, at Noon (Closed Meeting)

Audit Committee:

October 7, 2015, at 8:30 AM

Community Advisory Committee:

September 22, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Educational Services Advisory Committee:

November 9, 2015 at 2 PM

Radio Advisory Committee:

September 21, 2015 at 4:00 PM

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