Addiction-Study Guide-Student

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This 53:26 minute PBS NOVA documentary delves into the complex issue of drug addiction by profiling people who became addicted to drugs. The patients are diverse: a coal miner who was in a traumatic mine accident, a young student active in sports and school, a teen from a successful, caring family, and a young mother who loses her children due to her drug abuse.

Through the stories of these people, the documentary explains the mechanism of addiction, how drugs change the brain, and how those changes make continued recovery difficult. It also explains how the epidemic of drug abuse continues to grow in the United States. How did it begin? Why is it so difficult to contain? What can be done to reduce the ever-increasing trend?

Use the study guide questions below to better understand the information presented in the video.

  1. West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country (NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). How did this happen? Why was West Virginia the “perfect storm” for addiction?








  1. Jason Edwards and his two brothers grew up in Sophia, WV and all three worked in the coal mines there. All three struggled with addiction. How did Jason become addicted to the pain pill, oxycontin?







  1. Oxycontin is a powerful opioid pain killer, chemically similar to morphine. How does it work to relieve pain?




  1. Casey is a young teen profiled in the video. Casey’s father watched his brothers struggle with drug addictions and worried that his daughter may have the same experience. He moved his family out of the city and sent Casey to a private school. Casey had a loving family, was active in school sports, and was a good student. How did she become addicted to drugs?





  1. What was the doctor’s reaction when he realized Casey was addicted?



  1. What is an “opioid refugee”?




  1. What was the mouse experiment that tested how reward behavior and brain effects? What did it show?







  1. How was the mouse experiment like addiction in humans?




  1. How does Jason describe his withdrawal symptoms?




  1. Why are withdrawal symptoms so bad?




  1. Dr. R. Corey Waller at the American Society of Addictive Medicine explains why it is so hard to quit using drugs. What was his explanation?




  1. Dr. Nora Volkov from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) imaged brains of people with and without addictions. What did she find was a common finding across all drugs abused? What is the significance of that finding?





  1. What are important effects of drugs on the brain and on your genetic makeup that strip an addict of decision-making functions?




  1. What program did they start in Vancouver, Canada to combat increasing drug overdoses?




Recap of people profiled in the video
Write a brief summary of what happened to the following people profiled in the video:

a) Jason


b) Mark (Jason’s brother)


c) Marie