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