Music program prevents teen addiction

November 8, 2018

A pioneering approach to drug and alcohol education that uses pop music videos was recently launched in the Patrician Presentation Secondary School in Fethard to the Second and Transition Year students.

Shortlisted for the Social Entrepreneur of Ireland Awards 2013 and endorsed by the HSE, The Harmony Program 1-day workshops used evidence-based music therapy with the music, lyrics and performance of many artists who have experienced addiction or written about the subject.

The program helps identify whether children are at risk of developing drug or alcohol addiction. Artists used include Amy Winehouse, Eminem, Ed Sheeran and the recent multi-Grammy award winners Macklemore & Ryan.

The Harmony Program is run by Roger Mehta from Clonmel who has studied and worked in the music industry and substance misuse field for many years. “For many years a lot of rock or rap music has glorified drug taking, seducing young people into thinking its all just a bit of fun,” Roger said. “The Harmony Program shows the realities and consequences of misusing drugs or alcohol by rock and rap artists who young people identify with and look up to.”

Roger, who has run many workshops through the Tipperary Regional Youth Service (TRYS), Garda Youth Diversion Projects and is currently running the program in The Aislinn Adolescent Treatment Centre in Kilkenny, is hoping to bring The Harmony Program to more young people. "Awareness of the triggers and impact of substance addiction early on gives young people a head start in making better decisions," he said. Roger explained that because music plays a pivotal role in the development and identity of many teenagers, it makes learning about such a life threatening subject very accessible.

“Students learn about the root causes of alcoholism and drug addiction and discover if they themselves are at risk of developing problems in the future. With this information young people have the tools to firewall themselves against future substance misuse issues,” Roger said.

The most recent Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) report found that 10% of 15-year-olds have been drunk by the age of 13, and that more than half of 15–17-year-olds have been drunk at some point in their lives, leading to a stronger likelihood of taking drugs. Other effects of substance misuse include poor school performance, antisocial behaviour and mental health problems.

In The Harmony Program students also learned how to place preventatives strategies in place such as the importance of staying in education, focusing and developing their strengths as individuals, participating in exercise or sport and how to have the courage to access support if need be.

One of the 2nd Year students who took part in the program said, “I always knew drugs and alcohol were addictive however I didn’t know they were so addictive and dangerous as they are,” adding that he “enjoyed [his] experience very much and found it interesting, informative and fun too.”

The day long workshop also saw the students writing and performing their own raps, poetry or songs, expressing their own feelings and experiences. The finished works are then presented to students so they can feel proud and have ownership of their expression and art. Roger pointed out that many teenagers come from homes where parents are abusing drugs and alcohol. It is vitally important that their voices are heard so they don’t end up going down the same path.

The Fethard students, who Roger found to be very pleasant and engaging to work with are now hoping to turn their collection of raps into a book. Principle Michal O'Sullivan said 'This is an excellent age appropriate approach to drug and alcohol education. The Harmony Program is delivered in a format that is educational, fun, interactive and enjoyable for all the students'.

If you would like more information on The Harmony Program
contact 052 61 48124, or email