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Addiction

Teacher Guide by Patrick Healey

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Addiction Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Addiction Include:

The impact of drug addiction is felt by everyone. While America has around five percent of the world’s population, it consumes about eighty percent of the world’s supply of painkillers. This has led to drug overdoses taking over the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Educating our youth is a critical preventative method to curbing the opioid epidemic.

Addiction Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Use Abuse Misuse Addiction


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Differentiating drug use, drug misuse, and drug abuse will create a way for students to recognize healthy and unhealthy habits. It’s important to understand the differences between use and abuse.

Addiction - a brain disease causing reoccurring seeking and use of harmful substances regardless of consequences. It is considered a disease because drugs alter the brain and how it works.


Drug use - proper intake of medication.


Drug abuse - intentional improper intake of drugs or medication to alter the mind or provoke a high.


Drug misuse - unintentional improper intake of a drug or medication.


When students define words in their own terms using visuals it helps students get their perspectives across and retain information better. Creating educational scenes rather than inappropriate triggering scenes is important to maintaining a safe environment for all students.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard showing the differences between drug addiction, drug use, drug misuse, and drug abuse.


  1. List the vocabulary words discussed and in the title boxes. Adjust the number of cells.
  2. Come up with your own definition and type it in the description box.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Three Main Drug Categories


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Most drugs fall into one or more of these main drug categories, stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. Marijuana is a drug that may be classified as both a depressant and a hallucinogenic.

Drugs that fall under the stimulant drug category will speed up the central nervous system when introduced to the body. Effects will include elevated heart rate, increased alertness or energy, lowered appetite and possible insomnia.

Examples of stimulants are:

  • Tobacco (nicotine)
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamine
  • Adderall/Ritalin

Depressants are known to slow down the central nervous system. Some effects on the body include lowered heart rate, numbness, lowered reaction time, and impaired coordination. Examples of depressants are:


  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Heroin
  • Sleeping Medication
  • Prescription Opioids/Narcotic
    • Codeine
    • Xanax
    • fentanyl
    • methadone

Hallucinogenic substances will alter someone’s perspective of light, taste, hearing, and sight, while possibly causing hallucinations. These effects on the body make hallucinogens popular at music events. Examples include:


  • LSD
  • PCP
  • Ecstasy/Molly
  • Psilocybin (mushrooms)
  • Marijuana

Having students create visual examples of what these drugs do to your body will help them understand and retain the concepts of physical effects on the body. Ask the students to create a visual of a stimulant, depressant, and hallucinogenic effect. The student should also describe what the drug does to the body. By asking the students to create specific drug examples and requiring them to list the long term effects of continued use may be a good way to reinforce negative consequences of drug use. Monitoring what students produce while they work is key to keeping the content school appropriate.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard showing the different effects of drugs on the body.


  1. List the three main drug categories in the title boxes.
  2. List three short term effects and one long term effect each drug has on the body in the discription box below the cell.
  3. Illustrate the effect of the drug on the body in the cell using a combination of appropriate scenes, characters, and items. Do not depict the actual use of the drug.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Addiction Cycle


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Understanding addiction can be a difficult concept. Most individuals see the negative behavior of using drugs and label that person as bad or weak. Many drug users are unable to properly cope with stress and the underlying cause for some drug abusers may be instant relief of stressors. The cycle of addiction can be a hard one to break.

The provided storyboard visual can be used as a learning tool or an assessment. The cycle shown indicates the best time to break the cycle is in the ‘caving to use’. This is not the only time someone could stop a cycle and every scenario is unique. With this said, it is usually the most successful time. The steps in the cycle following the craving is drug use, temporary relief, and shame. These usually follow each other in an user’s progression into addiction. The emotional trigger is uncontrollable most of the time, thus making the craving to use cell the best time for a healthy coping strategy. This is the ‘’ah-ha’’ moment for the students.

Using this example without the description may open up a discussion of where the best place to break the cycle could be. Once the students discover the learning objective, they can create their own cycles with breaking points.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of how to break the addiction cycle by creating a storyboard.


  1. Create a five cell storyboard cycle layout with titles and descriptions.
  2. List the five steps of the cycle in the each of the title boxes.
  3. In the cell’s description box briefly explain briefly what usually takes place during each step.
  4. Indicate the best opportunity to break the cycle in the appropriate description box.
  5. Write a brief reflection statement in the description box for guilt/shame.
  6. Illustrate a visual example of each step in the cells using a combination of appropriate scenes, characters, and items. Do not depict the actual use of the drug.
  7. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Alcohol Poisoning Help


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Recognizing the signs of an overdose can be a lifesaving skill for someone in need of help. Alcohol is one of the top drug choices for teens, making teens at high risk for overconsumption of alcohol. Alcohol is more readily available that other kinds of drugs, and since teens are under the age to consume, they drink in secrecy. When they are doing something illegal, they are also hesitant to call for help. Because they are likely drinking in hiding, they may also be more inclined to drink higher alcohol content liquids quickly to help conceal their behaviors.

It’s a recipe for disaster when combining binge drinking with unexperienced teens in unsupervised setting. Practicing to recognize alcohol poisoning is a useful skill. Ask the students to create a three cell storyboard: one cell with the signs of an alcohol overdose, another cell showing how to get help, and finally the third cell showing what to do while waiting for help. This should be covered in class prior to the assessment.


Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Disorientation
  • Cold and clammy hands
  • Vomiting
  • Low coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Unable to speak clearly
  • Blue tinge to skin
  • Low breathing and pulse rates

How to Get Help

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Get a trusted adult

What to do While Waiting for Help

  • Stay with the individual
  • Prevent choking by putting the person on their side or sitting them up
  • Keep the person awake
  • Offer them water if they can drink
  • Inform them of what is happening to keep them calm

What NOT to do

  • Do not feed the person, they may choke on the food
  • Do not give the person more alcohol, stopping the intake of alcohol is important
  • Do not give the person medication, mixing drugs may make it worse
  • Do not give the person coffee, caffeine may dehydrate them further
  • Do not ask them to walk it off, keep them sitting
  • Do not put them in the shower, that may increase the risk of hypothermia

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of alcohol poisoning and how to get help by creating a storyboard.


  1. List the titles of each box as ‘Overdose Signs’, ‘Getting Help’, and ‘What to Do’.
  2. In the description boxes, briefly explain what usually takes place during each step.
  3. In the overdose cell, create a visual with three examples of alcohol poisoning. In the description box list those three signs. Do not depict the actual use of the drug.
  4. In the ‘Getting Help’ cell description box, explain how to get help and illustrate and example in the cell.
  5. In the ‘What to Do’ description box, explain what someone should do while waiting for help and illustrate an example in the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Dopamine Drop


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The learning objective for this activity is recognizing the impact of the low dopamine levels in the brain following a high from a drug. This low is a primary cause for repetitive drug use. In order to make this concept as impactful as possible it’s important to talk about how the brain’s reward system works and how drugs modify it.

Essentially, our reward system is a survival tactic for the brain to help reinforce positive behaviors, this is why it’s enjoyable to eat food. Drugs access this reward system and flood the frontal lobe with dopamine, making drugs attractive to potential users. The brain recognizes this dopamine overload and stops its own production of it. When the high of the drug wears off, the brain isn’t producing its own dopamine naturally, causing the person to experience a depressing low. To avoid this or get out of this low quickly, individuals may use drugs again. This starts addiction and may be difficult to stop.

Another negative aspect of drug’s high dopamine release is causing previous enjoyable activities to become dull. We have a natural high in life when being physically active, socializing, procreating, and consuming food. When someone uses a drug like methamphetamine, the dopamine release is greater. The artificial high caused by the drug is greater than natural highs, lowering this person’s previous interest and causing drug use to be the main habit. This person may only associate with users, while distancing themselves from loved ones.

The provided example can be used as a education diagram for students after discussion. Visuals help reinforce content. This may also be modified for students to fill in after discussion. Leaving the ‘high’ and ‘low’ cells blank for students to fill in will help create a connection with content. You could also take out the line on the graph and unhighlight the brain to. Ask the students to make visuals for content will prove understanding.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard depicting the differences in dopamine levels of natural and drug highs.


  1. Label the rows with Drug and Natural.
  2. Label the columns with High, High's Impact, Low, and Low's Impact.
  3. In the ‘High’ cells, create an example of a natural high and a drug influenced high.
  4. Fill in the bar line graph show accurate levels of dopamine for both natural high and drug abuse while highlighting the part of the brain affected.
  5. In the ‘Low’ cells create an example a natural low and a drug influenced low.
  6. Fill in the bar line graph show accurate levels of dopamine for both natural and drug abuse. Highlight the part of the brain affected.
  7. In the descriptions, explain what is happening in each cell
  8. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Addiction Teacher Background on Drug Addiction

Although many people see drug addiction as a destructive behavior, the addiction is a brain disease. Addiction changes the way the brain works. Drugs utilize the brain’s communication system and reward system, leading to repetitive addictive behaviors. It consumes every aspect of an addict's life. It takes over a person’s previous interests and replaces them with obtaining and using substances. Drug use is on an addict's mind at all times and most of the person’s finances will go to acquiring it. A drug is a need to someone who is addicted and they will do whatever necessary to fulfill that need.

The opioid epidemic, which began in the late 2000s, impacts everyone is some way. Whether you know and care about someone facing a drug addiction, or you pay taxes to rehabilitation programs, it affects everyone. During this time frame, there has been a large spike in prescription and non prescription opioid abuse. The overdose rates of heroin spiked from 2010 to 2015; the number went from 2,000 a year to over 13,000. In 2015 alone, there were over 34,000 deaths related to drugs in the United States.

If someone has an illness that causes as much damage to them as addiction, people will reach out for help. They would support the person suffering as well as their family. Unfortunately when it comes to drug addiction, this not the case. The stigma of drug addiction has come a long way. The image of a drug addict today isn’t the stereotypical malnourished person with open sores on their face. Thanks to the opioid epidemic, anyone has potential to be an addict. This breakout of drug abuse has a large impact on countless communities. Prescription medication has never been so readily available to our youth. Educating them is a preventive method to drug use and consequently, drug addiction.

The following activities and storyboards will be excellent tools for your addiction unit. It is very possible to create visuals without advocating or popularizing drug use. Some of your students may either be struggling with an addiction themselves or have a family member or friend who is struggling. Approaching this unit with delicacy, sensitivity, and professionalism is important.


Essential Questions for Addiction

  1. What is addiction?
  2. What are the three main drug categories?
  3. What is the cycle of addiction?

Additional Addiction Lesson Plans and Activity Ideas

  1. Refusal Skills
  2. Consequences - negative consequence scenarios when deciding to do a drug
  3. Awareness Posters - anti drug posters/help and resource posters

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•   (English) Addiction   •   (Español) Adicción   •   (Français) Dépendance   •   (Deutsch) Sucht   •   (Italiana) Dipendenza   •   (Nederlands) Verslaving   •   (Português) Vício   •   (עברית) הִתמַכְּרוּת   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) إدمان   •   (हिन्दी) लत   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Зависимость   •   (Dansk) Addiction   •   (Svenska) Missbruk   •   (Suomi) Riippuvuus   •   (Norsk) Avhengighet   •   (Türkçe) Bağımlılık   •   (Polski) Nałóg   •   (Româna) Dependenta de   •   (Ceština) Závislost   •   (Slovenský) Závislosť   •   (Magyar) Függőség   •   (Hrvatski) Ovisnost   •   (български) Пристрастяване   •   (Lietuvos) Priklausomybė   •   (Slovenščina) Odvisnost   •   (Latvijas) Atkarība   •   (eesti) Sõltuvus