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Michigan OPEN

Painless: The Opioid Musical

Inspired by true stories of addiction and recovery, Painless: The Opioid Musical was developed by OPEN in collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Precision Health and School of Music, Theatre & Dance to reach young audiences far and wide. The show follows a group of students forced to sit through a drug awareness assembly at school — bored at first, it’s not long before they begin to realize their own connections to the ongoing crisis.

What’s the story behind Painless?

In 2018, individuals from the organization Families Against Narcotics were interviewed. Their personal accounts were translated into song and became the foundation of Painless: The Opioid Musical.

Written by Jacob Ryan Smith with additional material provided by Peter Scattini and Noah Kierserman, the musical debuted with its first live performance in the winter of 2019. After a multi-year delay due to COVID-19, Painless will now begin touring Michigan high schools.


The first live performance for students was held in September of 2022 at Community High School in Ann Arbor. “Painless” and the performance were featured in a segment on The Today Show, highlighting the importance of the musical as a tool to engage teens in conversations about opioids.

Painless: The Opioid Musical – Trailer


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Painless: The Opioid Musical

Learn how to bring Painless: The Opioid Musical to your school and help teach your students about the risks involved in opioid use.

How can students see Painless?

We’ll bring Painless: The Opioid Musical to your high school. Along with a live performance, you’ll receive free resources designed to engage students, including teacher education, Michigan Model for Health module support, cast album with lyric sheet, and toolkit.


Painless: The Opioid Musical Cast Recording

Listen to the official cast recording of Painless: The Opioid Musical.

Listen to the official cast album

Listen now

Get a closer look at the lyrics

Download the Lyrics

See Behind the Scenes Photos

Access the full toolkit

Use our toolkit to learn everything you need to know about Painless: The Opioid Musical.

Download here

Lead a discussion about Painless

1. Select one of more of these statistics to begin the discussion.

The musical ends with several statistics, including:

  • Since 1999, over one million Americans have died from drug overdoses.
  • In 2021 alone, over 70,000 Americans died from an overdose.
  • Nearly half of young people who inject heroin start by misusing prescription pain medicines, which are opioids.
  • Most adolescents who misuse prescription pills are given them for free by a friend or relative.

The numbers are alarming and show that everyone is at risk – this applies to each of you in this room.

2. Solicit student’s feedback for the statistics and encourage further conservation about risk.

Example questions:

  • What factors have contributed to the opioid epidemic?
  • What is prescription misuse?
  • What is the connection between opioid use and heroin use?

While opioid use disorder can happen to anyone, there are ways to decrease risk – one of the easiest ways is to avoid opioid misuse.

  1. Have students listen to “Get a Pill From Jesse” or lead the lyrics.
  2. Solicit student’s feedback on the song and encourage further conversation about avoiding risk.

Example questions:

  • What are some of the ways that people in the musical got opioids?
  • What are some healthy alternatives to using opioids?
  • What are some strategies to handle pressure to misuse opioids?

The musical portrayed several perspectives of how lives can be affected by opioid use disorder differently.

1. Have students listen to or read the lyrics one to one of the following songs:

  • “Boy in the Box” – describes the person stealing from his to pay for his addiction.
  • “Hey Mr. Doc” – depicts a young woman going from doctor to doctor to receive a prescription.

2. Solicit students’ feedback on the song. Encourage further conversation about who is impacted by the effects of opioid misuse and how.

Example questions:

  • How does the song portray the lives of the people suffering from opioid use disorder? What were some consequences they experienced?
  • How do you think an opioid use disorder interferes with daily life?

Stigma, or negative stereotypes, about people with substance use disorder can prevent them from seeking help. It is important to remember that substance use disorder is a disease, not a moral failing or character weakness.

1. Solicit students’ feedback on the impact stigma may have on people with substance use disorder.

  • Did you know that substance use disorder is defined as a disease?
  • What are some ways we can help stop the stigma of substance us disorder.

Healthy recovery is possible – visit

Additional Resources:


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides quality, fact-based information about opioid misuse.

Partnership to End Addiction

The mission of Partnership to End Addiction is to transform how the nation addresses addiction by empowering families, advancing effective care, shaping public policy, and changing culture.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

The lead federal agency supporting scientific research on drug use and addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) offers research and training resources.

Families Against Narcotics

With 20+ chapters across Michigan, the mission of FAN is to offer community-based, compassionate, best-practice/evidence-based services to people who have been affected by addiction to erase the stigma of addiction while instilling compassion and hope.