1. Explain to the class that the focus of the unit up to this point has been on junior high school–age teens facing decisions about alcohol and other drugs. However, it is not just young adolescents whose lives can be affected by alcohol and other drugs. In some cases, older family members, including siblings, parents, and extended family members, experience substance-use problems. The focus of this activity is how the alcohol and other drug-related behaviour of each family member can affect others in the family.

  2. Spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas about what kinds of things might happen in the home if a parent or older sibling drinks too much or has become harmfully involved or dependent on a prescription drug or an illegal drug like cannabis or cocaine. Ask the class what they think is the difference between “harmfully involved” and “dependent.”

    Harmful involvement can be defined as heavy use and/or more frequent use, with the person looking forward to chances to use the substance. Problems may begin to emerge, but the person continues to use despite these problems. Dependence involves heavy, frequent use. The substance is very important to the person, and he or she will make personal sacrifices to get and use the substance, spending a lot of money and time using the drug. He or she craves the drug and even feels uncomfortable without it. In fact, he or she needs to have the drug to feel “normal.” The person continues to use the drug even though it is causing various problems at school, home, with friends, or with money. Both types of substance use are a concern within a family as they can have a great impact on day-to-day life.

    Ask the students if they think that the consequences of harmful involvement or dependency would be different if the person having the problem was the mother, the father, or an older sibling.

  3. Pointing out the flip chart paper around the room and noting that they each identify different family members, ask the students to write their responses to the following questions on the flip chart paper.
    • What could be some of the effects on the family if the dad was harmfully involved or dependent on a substance?
    • What could be some of the effects if the mom was harmfully involved or dependent?
    • What could be some of the effects on the family if an older teenager (high school student or recent graduate) was harmfully involved or dependent?
    • What could be some of the effects on the family if an extended family member like a grandparent, aunt, or uncle was harmfully involved or dependent?
    • What could be some of the effects on the wider community if an individual within the community was harmfully involved or dependent?

  4. Once the students have finished, discuss the items that they have identified. If any of the following effects are not on the list, draw them to the students’ attention:
    • Fewer chores being done around the house and fewer meals made
    • Money problems showing up or increasing
    • Acting withdrawn, mood swings, or other changes in personality
    • Unexplained and increasing absences from the home
    • Missing time at work or losing a job
    • Forgetfulness
    • Sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep at night
    • Appearing distracted or inattentive
    • Changes in physical appearance, taking less care of self
    • Going to more doctor appointments or getting prescriptions filled more frequently
    • Not showing up at child's special events
    • More fighting between family members, more scenes
    • Family members feeling less connected to one another
    • A social worker from Children's Aid or Family Services coming to their home

  5. Ask the students how they react to the list? Did they think it would be as long as it is? Is there anything that they did not realize? Tell the students that there are a number of supports in the community that can help out when a family member is harmfully involved or dependent on a substance and that this will be discussed in the next two activities.