urban version - drugs

In this segment of The Choice Game™ we explore Peer Pressure and Drugs. Rachael and Jeremy are at a club and she is trying to get him to try Ecstacy. There are 13 scenes, 7 choices to be made, and 21 backstories.

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This segment explores the harmful effects of destructive substances and how they dramatically impair decision-making abilities.

Using the top research and information available today from institutions such as the National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, young people are given the facts in a way they can relate to. 

Q: What is marijuana? Aren't there different kinds?

A: Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. You may hear marijuana called by street names such as pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. There are more than 200 slang terms for marijuana.

Sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah; it's a Spanish word), hashish ("hash" for short), and hash oil are stronger forms of marijuana.

All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. In other words, they change how the brain works. They all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. They also contain more than 400 other chemicals. Marijuana's effects on the user depend on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. THC potency of marijuana has increased since the 1970s but has been about the same since the mid-1980s.

Q: How long does marijuana stay in the user's body?

A: THC in marijuana is strongly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces (metabolites) of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods several days after a smoking session. However, in heavy chronic users, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana.

Q: What happens if you smoke marijuana?

A: The effects of the drug on each person depend on the user's experience, as well as:

  • what the user expects to happen;
  • where (the place) the drug is used;
  • how it is taken; and
  • whether the user is drinking alcohol or using other drugs.

Some people feel nothing at all when they smoke marijuana. Others may feel relaxed or high. Sometimes marijuana makes users feel thirsty and very hungry - an effect called "the munchies."

Some users can get bad effects from marijuana. They may suffer sudden feelings of anxiety and have paranoid thoughts. This is more likely to happen when a more potent variety of marijuana is used.

Q: What are the short-term effects of marijuana use?

A: The short-term effects of marijuana include:

  • problems with memory and learning;
  • distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch);
  • trouble with thinking and problem-solving;(
  • loss of coordination; and
  • increased heart rate, anxiety.

These effects are even greater when other drugs are mixed with the marijuana; and users do not always know what drugs are given to them.

Q: Does marijuana affect school, sports, or other activities?

A: It can. Marijuana affects memory, judgment and perception. The drug can make you mess up in school, in sports or clubs, or with your friends. If you're high on marijuana, you are more likely to make stupid mistakes that could embarrass or even hurt you. If you use marijuana a lot, you could start to lose interest in how you look and how you're getting along at school or work.

Athletes could find their performance is off; timing, movements, and coordination are all affected by THC. Also, since marijuana use can affect thinking and judgment, users can forget to have safe sex and possibly expose themselves to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Q: What are the long-term effects of marijuana use?

A: Findings so far show that regular use of marijuana or THC may play a role in some kinds of cancer and in problems with the respiratory and immune systems.

  • Cancer

It's hard to know for sure whether regular marijuana use causes cancer. But it is known that marijuana contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.

  • Lungs and airways

People who smoke marijuana often develop the same kinds of breathing problems that cigarette smokers have: coughing and wheezing. They tend to have more chest colds than nonusers. They are also at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia.

  • Immune system

Animal studies have found that THC can damage the cells and tissues in the body that help protect people from disease. When the immune cells are weakened, you are more likely to get sick.

Young man with pipe looking thoughtfulLife is filled with Choices. The game allows the player to explore the negative outcomes of choosing drugs.

Q: Does marijuana lead to the use of other drugs?

A: It could. Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana. For example, the risk of using cocaine is 104 times greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it. Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs. So there is more of a risk that a marijuana user will be exposed to and urged to try more drugs.

To better determine this risk, scientists are examining the possibility that long-term marijuana use may create changes in the brain that make a person more at risk of becoming addicted to other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine. While not all young people who use marijuana go on to use other drugs, further research is needed to predict who will be at greatest risk.

Q: How can you tell if someone has been using marijuana?

A: If someone is high on marijuana, he or she might

  • seem dizzy and have trouble walking;
  • seem silly and giggly for no reason;
  • have very red, bloodshot eyes; and
  • have a hard time remembering things that just happened.

When the early effects fade, over a few hours, the user can become very sleepy.

Q: How does marijuana affect driving?

A: Marijuana has serious harmful effects on the skills required to drive safely: alertness, the ability to concentrate, coordination, and the ability to react quickly. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road.

Marijuana may play a role in car accidents. In one study conducted in Memphis, TN, researchers found that, of 150 reckless drivers who were tested for drugs at the arrest scene, 33 percent tested positive for marijuana, and 12 percent tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine. Data have also shown that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of coordination on standard "drunk driver" tests as do people who have had too much to drink.

Q: What does marijuana do to the brain?

A: Some studies show that when people have smoked large amounts of marijuana for years, the drug takes its toll on mental functions. Heavy or daily use of marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control memory, attention, and learning. A working short-term memory is needed to learn and perform tasks that call for more than one or two steps.

Smoking marijuana causes some changes in the brain that are like those caused by cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. Some researchers believe that these changes may put a person more at risk of becoming addicted to other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. Scientists are still learning about the many ways that marijuana could affect the brain.

Q: Can people become addicted to marijuana?

A: Yes. While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, when a user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that person is said to be dependent or addicted to the drug. In 1995, 165,000 people entering drug treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, showing they need help to stop using the drug.

According to one study, marijuana use by teenagers who have prior serious antisocial problems can quicky lead to dependence on the drug.

Some frequent, heavy users of marijuana develop a tolerance for it. "Tolerance" means that the user needs larger doses of the drug to get the same desired results that he or she used to get from smaller amounts.

Q: What if a person wants to quit using the drug?

A: Up until a few years ago, it was hard to find treatment programs specifically for marijuana users.

Kids partyingNow researchers are testing different ways to help marijuana users abstain from drug use. There are currently no medications for treating marijuana addiction. Treatment programs focus on counseling and group support systems. There are also a number of programs designed especially to help teenagers who are abusers. Family doctors are also a good source for information and help in dealing with adolescent marijuana problems.

For more information on marijuana and other drugs, contact:

National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847

Adolescent drug use can lead to the lowering of self-control. In The Choice Game™ curriculum youth can choose drugs or they can abstain. Their choices determine the outcome of the game. The goal is to help young people to develop good decision making skills in a safe environment.

TRACK 14 (Explores the effects of different drugs and a flirtation leads to possibly more sexual involvement.)

Boy: Hey, I wonder if that's the stuff that got Peter last year.

Rachael: Who's Peter?

Boy: You remember him. He was the point guard on our freshmen basketball team... then he ended up dead after a game one night.

Rachael: Oh, now I remember him. He had such 'n attitude... like he was better then all of us.

Boy: Ya but he sure had all the right moves on the court. I played against him a couple of times. What I wouldn't do to have his speed.

Rachael: Well, his problem was he took LSD at a club one night.

Boy: I used to think all he did was smoke some trees... 'nd what harm could a joint do? Then he died. I just couldn't believe it.

Rachael: Look I don't mean to not show any respect or anything but I came here to have some fun, not get all stressed out about some fool who I hardly ev'n met. Maybe you need to find some other lady to chat with.

Boy: No way. You're the one for me. tsssssszz ... you smell sooooo fine. That perfume you're wearin' tonight is drivin' me crazy.

Rachael: 'nd here I thought you didn't even notice. It's called "Paradise".

Boy: That's the right name for sure. Just being with you is paradise, girl.

Rachael: My life is a mess right now. I need a real man to help me get to get to a better place... ya feel me?

Boy: True, I feel ya.

Rachael: Look, let's find somewhere so we can be alone.


Jermy & Amarelys rehearsing a scene

The long range plans for The Choice Game™ will allow the players to choose the racial make up of the actors in each segment. The initial Drugs segment involves an African American male named Jermy St. Louis and a Hispanic female named Amarelys Perez. The segment involves decision-making skills whereby the girl has used drugs and is trying to get the boy to take Ecstasy.

Listen to "Introduction by Narrator" (Track 1)

There are three critical paths the players can take. The consequences of their choices are dramatically shown, including going to an NA meeting or even taking the drugs. In one path the girl might become pregnant.

Listen to "You can take this once and stop if you want, right?" (Track 5)

Jermy St. Louis in jail

In this scene, Jermy St. Louis is in jail. The girl he was dancing with passed out at the club and ultimately died. Jermy is being blamed for her death. In the game he had nothing to do with her dying but depending on his choices at the club he might have tried the drug. Now his whole future plans of going to Journalism school are in doubt. He fears what his mother will say when she finds out what has happened to him and he feels guilty because he did not convince Rachael (played by Amarelys Perez) to not take the Ecstasy.

Listen to "Opening Scene" (Track 2)

Note: Jermy St. Louis is a graduate of Lincoln High School in Jersey City, NJ and has written a letter of support regarding his Jersey City school experiences and The Choice Game™.