Heidi Swan, writer, producer
One of the scenes in A Night In Jail, the Young Adult novella I co-wrote with my brother, shows how the main character, Danny (16), tries marijuana for the first time.
It’s the 1970’s and Danny is skiing with a friend, Steve, who is a regular pot smoker. They see two attractive young ladies on the slopes. Danny doesn’t know how he will ever get the courage to talk to them. Steve successfully breaks the ice by offering them some weed. It’s easy to see how Danny feels compelled to join in.
Little was known back then about the risks of marijuana use to the developing brain. Not only do we have research today which shows the many negative effects but, depending on the product, the THC today is 4 to 20 times stronger than what Danny was using.
Even as the new THC products carry more risks, the perception of their safety has never been greater. Extensive commercialization of THC, CBD and hemp products communicate them to be healthy, even harmless.
For youth who live in states where voters decided to legalize marijuana and increase access to the drug, how can a teenager resist the pressure to use it?
My answer: they need practice.
I made a 5-minute highlight video of improvisational exercises with young actors based on the themes of A Night In Jail. Following the acting work, we had a discussion where I thought we would discuss their feelings about the exercises. Instead, they discussed their feelings about the normalization of drugs. They described how THC products are “everywhere” and how this (and I’m summarizing here) increases stress in their lives. You can see how this unfolded by watching the video, and you will see how practice can powerfully deliver an important experiential lesson.
Watch this eye-opening video here.
To have Heidi lead Improvisational Exercises with a follow-up discussion for your youth group, please contact her here.
Heidi Anderson-Swan is the co-author of A Night In Jail. Adapted as a novella, film and play, this gritty Young Adult fictional story is the first to illustrates Cannabis - Induced Psychosis (a diagnosis in the DSM-5). A Night In Jail is inspired by her brother’s true life as a homeless drug addict with schizophrenia who went to jail eighteen times. Along with a group of advocates from MomsStrong.org, and led by long-time Schizophrenia Researcher, Dr. Christine Miller, Heidi met with the Drug Advisors for then-Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Dianne Feinstein. As a consultant, she has worked with Los Angeles Defense Attorney, Bob Schwartz. In partnership with Behavioral Health Services (a contractor with Los Angeles County Substance Abuse Prevention and Control), she has co - sponsored several in-person and virtual events utilizing the film and play, A Night In Jail. As a speaker, Heidi has presented for the 2nd Annual Teaching Cannabis Awareness and Prevention Virtual Conference (co - chaired by Stanford’s Bonnie Halpern), Alcoholics and Substance Providers of New York State, Community Coalitions of Virginia, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Solano County, and many other organizations. Heidi is proud to support her friends and partners in education: she is on the Advisory Board for Johnny’s Ambassadors; and a Board Member of Every Brain Matters and Parents Opposed to Pot.
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