Talking to teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse isn't the easiest thing. Many parents are guilty of believing "not my child."
"Addicted" is a play that tackles the difficult subject, drawing directly from the personal experiences of the cast and crew.
After school, at any given high school across the country, there's likely to be a drama practice going on. But at North Harford High School in Pylesville, the work being performed isn't a fairytale---far from it.
It's all too real for the students and alumni performing in "Addicted." School psychologist Christle Henzel wrote the play three years ago based on her own family's experience.
"My brother struggled with addiction, so really through his story and so many others around us that I was really inspired to write about addiction," she said. "Because it's an epidemic that we're faced with and it touches so many people's lives."
The play features three main characters, each battling an addiction.
Jill Nooney, an 11th grader, plays the role of Jessica, a prescription pill addict.
"I just remember watching it and being like, I want that part," Nooney said. "Because addiction is a real problem and I've seen it in my family and when I saw the play, I cried. It got me. And I wanted to be a part of that because it's important."
"Addicted" is a passion project for 11th grader Cassidy McGinty, who not only plays a role but also edited the latest version of the play.
"Two of my uncles actually both died from heroin addiction, so I thought that it was kind of my duty, my obligation to do this play," she said.
McGinty's painful family history inspired her to help Henzel create a new character.
"I actually play my grandmother in this play," McGinty said. "My grandmother was a heroin addict's mother and just, that is so real to me."
Harford County is trying to spread awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse as early as possible.
The 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey found an alarming percentage of middle school students in Harford County admitting to trying drugs and alcohol. Joe Ryan, manager of Harford County's Office of Drug Control Policy said the play is a unique way to start a conversation between young people and their parents.
"We can all have teachers lecture, we can have government officials talk to kids, but the kids really get engaged in this play," he said. "It's very well done."
McGinty said the play deeply affected her when she first saw it and she hopes it does the same for her peers.
"I think that the reason why this play is so important is that is just destroys the 'no consequences' part, because there are consequences," she said. "There are consequences to yourself, to your family to the people you love and it'll ruin your life."
There are several scheduled performances of "Addicted" coming up. You can see it at North Harford High School on Friday, February 26 at 7 p.m. Mount Zion Church in Bel Air will host the play on March 11th and 12th at 7 p.m. Admission is free.