Grade: High
Subject: Social Emotional Learning

Essential Question

How can you help someone struggling with addiction?


Musical artists have dreamed of many things: a No. 1 album, a continuously expanding fanbase, and an impact on the ever-changing cultural landscape. But how many aspire to having an addiction that could affect all of these dreams?

It is no secret that many celebrated musicians have struggled with drug addiction throughout their careers. While some have been able to overcome these battles, others, tragically, have not. These addictions not only impact the health of these individuals, but can also affect the relationships they have with fellow band members, loved ones, and their fans.

Jerry Garcia was one of many musicians who, despite resounding success, succumbed to addiction. As one of the singers and lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, a large portion of Garcia’s career involved handling the demands of a growing fanbase and supporting the sound engineers, technical staff, stagehands, and tour drivers that made the band’s performances possible. In coping with these stresses, Garcia often turned to self-medication, which towards the end of his life started to affect his relationship with his family and closest friends. In 1995, Garcia died at a drug rehabilitation center. He was 53 years old.

In this lesson, students reflect upon drug addiction. By viewing and discussing clips from Long Strange Trip, students learn how Jerry Garcia’s drug addictions impacted his relationship with the Grateful Dead band members and loved ones. In addition, students consider how outside factors created a “weight” that that likely led to Garcia’s drug addiction, and learn about effective measures that can be taken towards addiction intervention.

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  1. Know (knowledge):
    • How Jerry Garcia’s healthy lifestyle had a positive impact on the Grateful Dead
    • How the “weight” of the Grateful Dead contributed to Jerry Garcia’s drug addiction
    • How Garcia’s drug addiction had an impact on his relationship with his band and loved ones
    • Basic intervention steps that can be implemented for people struggling with addiction
  2. Mastery Objective:
    • Students will be able to effectively construct an addiction intervention plan by examining clips from Long Strange Trip, reading information about addiction from the Mayo Clinic, and designing a Public Service Announcement on proper ways to respond to a person’s drug addiction.


Motivational Activity:

  1. Ask the students:
    • What do you think it means to have an addiction? At what point might a hobby, pastime, or “bad habit” become an addiction?
    • What are some possible reasons people might become addicted to something?
    • Do any particular musicians or celebrities come to mind who have struggled with addiction? Were they able to overcome this addiction?
    • What might be some of the results of an addiction? How might someone’s addiction affect other people?
    • What are some of the ways people might be able to overcome addictions?


  1. Show Image 1, Grateful Dead Logos. Ask students:
    • Do you recognize these logos?
    • Have you seen these logos before? If so, where?
    • What do these logos represent?
  2. Show Image 2, Jerry Garcia Mural. Explain to students that Garcia was one of the lead singers and guitarists of the Grateful Dead, and struggled throughout his life with drug addiction.
  3. Play Clip 1, Jerry Garcia’s Healthy Renaissance. Ask students:
    • What were some of the choices Jerry Garcia took at this moment in his life to create a healthy lifestyle?
    • By choosing a healthy lifestyle, how did that impact Garcia’s musical productivity?
    • How might have Garcia’s new lifestyle potentially affected the rest of the members of the band?
  4. Play Clip 2, The “Weight” of the Grateful Dead. Ask students:
    • Dennis McNally describes the “weight” that Garcia carried with the Grateful Dead. What examples does he give of this “weight”?
    • What other “weights” might a musician or band have placed on them throughout their career? What sort of “weights” or pressures do you experience in life?
    • Why do you feel that Garcia may have resorted to using drugs again to cope with these “weights?
    • How does Barbara Meier describe Garcia’s personality changed after he began using drugs?
    • How did the views and attitudes of the road manager versus Barbara Meier’s differ in regards to Garcia’s drug use?
  5.  Show Image 3, Most Common Addictions. Ask students:
    • In what ways might someone become addicted to one of these substances? (Note to teacher: Consider these ideas to help navigate the students – home environment, mental health, peer, genetics.)
    • Out of the ten items listed, which one are legal and illegal to obtain? What do you notice about the ones that are legal to obtain versus the ones that are not? 
    • How might someone help a family member or loved one who is struggling with addiction?
    • What conflicts could arise if confronting a family member or loved one about their addiction? 
  6. Play Clip 3, Reflections. Ask students:
    • Why might have Garcia ended his relationship with Meier?
    • How did the band and road crew describe Garcia during this time period?
    • What were some of the reasons the band gave to describe why they were hesitant to approach Garcia about his addiction?
    • In retrospect, what do you feel was the band’s attitude towards how they dealt with Garcia’s addiction?
    • In the clip, Dennis McNally notes that the band held interventions for Garcia. What is an intervention? Have you heard this word before? What are positive and negative notions that come to mind when you hear this word?
  7. Organize students into five groups, and display Image 4, Public Service Campaign Activity. Explain to the class that each group will be receiving a different document, and their job is to read the information and brainstorm how to translate it onto a single poster that would be displayed to the public. Posters could be created using pencils, markers, etc. on poster board, or with the aid of computer image and design software.
  8. Pass out to each group 1 page of Handout 1 – “Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction” (Mayo Clinic)
  9. Upon completion, have students share with the class their poster and discuss the information found within their handout.

Summary Activity:

  1. Ask the students: 
    • Based on what you learned from the class’s presentations, what are some of the ways that you can be active in helping a loved one seek help for addiction? 
    • What are some basic steps you can take to help them? Who can help you to setup the intervention process?
  2. Share students intervention posters by sending them to

Extension Activities:

  1. Choose one of the substances mentioned in Image 3, Most Common Addictions, and research programs that address the addiction to that substance. Summarize the program and the approach it takes to fighting addiction.


National Health Education Standards

  • S1: Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
  • S2: Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.
  • S4: Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.
  • S8: Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health

Common Core State Standards

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading

  • Reading 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Reading 2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • Craft and Structure 4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity 10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 

  • Text Types and Purposes 2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Production and Distribution of Writing 4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Production and Distribution of Writing 6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge 7: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge 8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge  9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

  • Language 1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • Language 2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • Language 3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listing.
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 5:  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in a word meaning.
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 6: Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

  • Comprehension & Collaboration 1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Comprehension & Collaboration 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • Presentation of Knowledge 4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 6: Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

  • Theme 1: Culture
  • Theme 3: People, Place, and Environments
  • Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Theme 7: Production, Distributions, and Consumption

Career Technical Education Standards (California Model) – Arts, Media and Entertainment Pathway Standards

Design, Visual and Media Arts (A)

  • A1.0 Demonstrate ability to reorganize and integrate visual art elements across digital media and design applications.
    A1.1 View and respond to a variety of industry-related artistic products integrating industry appropriate vocabulary.
    A1.5 Research and analyze the work of an artist or designer and how the artist’s distinctive style contributes to their industry production.
    A1.9 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work. ia, and Entertainment |
    A3.0 Analyze and assess the impact of history and culture on the development of professional arts and media products.
    A3.2 Describe how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence and are reflected in a variety of artistic products.
    A3.3 Identify contemporary styles and discuss the diverse social, economic, and political developments reflected in art work in an industry setting.
    A4.0 Analyze, assess, and identify effectiveness of artistic products based on elements of art, the principles of design, and professional industry standards.
    A4.2 Deconstruct how beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence commercial media (traditional and electronic).
    A4.5 Analyze and articulate how society influences the interpretation and effectiveness of an artistic product.

Performing Arts (B)

  • B2.0 Read, listen to, deconstruct, and analyze peer and professional music using the elements and terminology of music.
    B2.5 Analyze and describe significant musical events perceived and remembered in a given industry generated example.
    B7.0 Analyze the historical and cultural perspective of multiple industry performance products from a discipline-specific perspective.
    B7.3 Analyze the historical and cultural perspective of the musician in the professional setting.
    B8.0 Deconstruct the aesthetic values that drive professional performance and the artistic elements necessary for industry production.
    B8.1 Critique discipline-specific professional works using the language and terminology specific to the discipline.
    B8.2 Use selected criteria to compare, contrast, and assess various professional performance forms.
    B8.3 Analyze the aesthetic principles that apply in a professional work designed for live performance, film, video, or live broadcast.
    B8.4 Use complex evaluation criteria and terminology to compare and contrast a variety of genres of professional performance products.
    B9.0 Explore the connection between artistic preparation and professional standards and practices.
    B9.5 Contrast differing roles in professional skill sets of creators, performers, and others involved in the production and presentation of the performing arts.