Saturday, 14 July 2012

Parsnips Part Five: Narcotics

Our fifth parsnip is rich in classroom potential. The drugs certainly do work when it comes to engaging learners in discussion and debate.

Attitudes to and legislation on drugs will vary depending on where you are based, and a good way of kicking things off is to discuss drugs at a local level. Here in Shetland, sniffer dogs greet new arrivals off the ferry (funded by a popular local campaign: Dogs Against Drugs). The dogs are expert at sniffing out dope, so I imagine smuggling this particular drug into Shetland might be a challenge. Unfortunately, heroin easily gets past the dogs.  I might begin by asking learners what they know about Shetland's “dogs against drugs” campaign. Is it a wise idea? Or are there perhaps more serious implications (especially for young people wishing to experiment with drugs)?  

If you wish to brush up on your own narcotic knowledge, I recommend a quick visit to where you can find a list of the top ten drugs and their effects.  If you wish, you could adapt this text to the level of your learners. You could also focus on practising the zero conditional here: e.g. when you smoke hash you feel relaxed/confused etc.

Research and Discussion

The topic of whether or not cannibas should be legalised has long been up for debate in the British press.   Giving learners the time to research arguments for and against should result in an informed and structured discussion. This may take a little time and effort to organise, but the quality of the argument will be worth it.
I suggest dividing the class into two groups. One will be pro legalisation and the other group will be against it. Each group will then have to read through a selection of arguments you have prepared (I have included suggestions below, but you can find plenty more online!) Give the groups plenty of time to read and assess the arguments, and monitor carefully, before asking learners to discuss their views.

 Further Discussion
The pleasures and pains of drug use are well documented in songs and films. Requiem for a Dream is one of many films to explore addiction. What makes this film particularly interesting is the way in which it contrasts a mother’s addiction to prescription (diet) drugs to her son’s heroin addiction. This contrast could be discussed after showing learners the film trailer.
Trainspotting has been criticised for “glamorising” drug addiction. Certainly, I remember the mid nineties' flirtation with “junkie chic”. The following clip (in which Mark Renton overdoses, and gets bundled into a taxi by his dealer and dumped at the entrance of Edinburgh’s royal infirmary) would provide a good starting point for the question: “Does the Media glamorise drugs?”

Songs and Drugs

The Drugs Don’t Work – The Verve
Brown Sugar: The Rolling Stones
Mother’s Little Helper: The Rolling Stones
Under the Bridge: The Red Hot Chilli Pepper
Heroin – The Velvet Underground
Purple Haze: Jimmi Hendrix
Ebeneezer Good: The Shamen

These are some well known classics, but I’m sure you can find songs on drugs to suit most musical tastes. Stuck for ideas on how best to exploit these songs in class? Then visit Eva Buyuksimkesyan's blog
for some excellent suggestions.


  1. Hi Genevieve. This is a sensitive issue but part of modern culture. How many many bands have taken drugs? Probably all of them. What's more interesting is how they talk about, even boast about it AND it's accepted. Beatles, Clapton, Hendrix, Stones, Oasis..all of them are guilty but was the music created solely the result of the drugs? Look at Floyd, a style of music that some take drugs to listen to. Now, who would be willing to remove drugs if it means removing all this music. You could also get into who is running the drug cartels, where's the money from and where does it go? Take all that away and there'll be millions of addicts needing hospitalisation or who turn nasty. would students be happy for a 'turn a blind eye' policy like in parts of London or just complete legalisation? How about recommended medicinal use by doctors? How would drug companies deal with that?

    Sorry, I find this one fascinating. Keep up the great posts.

  2. Hi Phil,

    Thanks - you've given me plenty more food for thought there! The scenario you describe (were drugs to be made completely unavailable) would certainly be a fascinating topic of discussion.

    The link between musical creativity and certain drugs is also interesting. Sadly, my learners do not share my taste in music, so I'm not sure if my drugs and rock n'roll lesson would have much chance of getting off the ground! (:

    Thanks again for popping by.