WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Drama certainly has the power to entertain, but can it also change behavior? A play about substance abuse was successful at prompting audience members to participate in substance abuse prevention activities, according to Allyn Howlett, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
"This study provides evidence that drama can be an effective mechanism to educate and motivate," said Howlett, who was team leader for the research. "The combination of emotion and information had a significant impact on personal activism."
The project involved creating and producing a play to educate the Durham, N.C., community about substance abuse issues and to encourage involvement in substance abuse prevention activities. The research was conducted while Howlett was a faculty member at the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute at North Carolina Central University in Durham.
After seeing the play, "Tunnels," audience members were more likely to talk to their friends and family about substance abuse and to donate money to organizations involved in substance abuse prevention, according to a report published this month by Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, an on-line publication (http://www.substanceabusepolicy.com/content/2/1/11) of Biomed Central.
"A goal of the study was to determine whether behavioral changes leading to increased awareness, communication and participation could be facilitated by the drama," said Howlett, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest.
The play consisted of six vignettes about people addicted to alcohol or drugs. A local playwright developed the scenes with input from a focus group comprised of educators, substance abuse researchers and local substance abuse counselors. Substance abuse problems most common in the community alcohol, marijuana, heroin,
Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center