How to Create Drug & Alcohol Group-Awareness Activities

Written by mary earhart
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Raising awareness of issues affected by drug and alcohol dependence is an effective strategy for prevention in teens. Awareness is also a tool used to break through denial in persons who are caught up in addiction. Simple, fun, instructional activities can bring important information to light.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Drawing Paper
  • Colouring markers or crayons
  • Magazines, assorted
  • Poster Board
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Rocks, fist-sized
  • Poster paints
  • Canvas bag

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    Stimulate Thought and Discussion

  1. 1

    Help participants identify feelings and the impact they have on chemical dependency. Identifying feelings is basic to alcohol and drug awareness because addicts and alcoholics avoid feelings. Participants draw a simple face and imbue it with emotions they are currently experiencing, using marker or crayon colours that also express moods. Feelings are one word: happy, sad, fearful, worried, anxious or elated. Each person in the group can explain a little bit about the drawing and receive feedback from the facilitator or group.

  2. 2

    In the same or another group, have participants paint rocks with one-word feelings and place them (after they dry) in a large canvas bag. The bag is heavy when it is carried around with all the feelings in it. Letting them out one at a time and talking about them makes the bag lighter. Each participant removes a rock and explains what was happening once when she felt that feeling.

  3. 3

    Help participants relate to dysfunctional family dynamics under the spectre of alcohol and drug addiction. Explain these roles: the hero, the scapegoat, the quiet child, the mascot--are played out by children when one or more parents have an alcohol or drug problem. Participants construct a collage about themselves or their family, recognising which role they or their own children played. The hero is usually oldest, takes on inappropriate responsibilities and has little time to be a child. The scapegoat takes all the blame (and is often the one who, by acting out, gets the family into treatment). The quiet child isolates, withdraws, and pretends she doesn't have needs. The mascot distracts, entertains and diverts attention from the serious issues facing the family. None of the children learn to be themselves or to trust.

  4. 4

    Arrange for speakers to share their experiences, strengths and hopes. Subjective and objective learning takes place by listening to first-hand accounts of what it's like to go to jail, lose children in the foster system, have serious car accidents or develop health problems due to alcohol and drug use. Drug and alcohol treatment facilities have outreach programs and can provide panels. Or contact groups such as Narcotics Anonymous. Speakers are free of charge; their goal is to help themselves by helping others and to educate the public about issues surrounding substance abuse. Afterward, encourage listeners to write thank-you notes to the speakers in order to reinforce learning.

Tips and warnings

  • Group discussion and feedback is as important as facilitator input. Try to involve everyone; draw out shy participants and set boundaries with those who would monopolise discussions. Stress the seriousness of the subject while allowing for humorous insights.
  • Intense emotions sometimes arise during group discussions. Watch for defensive and protective body language. Ask participants to breathe deeply and put both feet on the floor as a grounding exercise. Give group members a chance to draw or write anonymously about what is bothering them, and offer to stay after the group for anyone who needs to talk.

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