POPULAR television soap opera Home And Away is set to be rocked by
controversy next week when it airs an episode showing one of its favourite
characters using marijuana.
It will be the first time a program popular with teenagers deals with a
youngster experimenting with the illegal drug.
But the episode has a dark warning to viewers: marijuana use can lead to a
devastating psychological condition, schizophrenia.
Home And Away will join other Australian TV programs which broke social and
community taboos, including the classic 1970s soapy Number 96, which brought
nudity to the small screen.
A kiss between two lesbians on the hit comedy Ellen between Ellen Degeneres
and Laura Dern in 1997 caused an uproar in the US.
Several studies have linked marijuana to the schizophrenia as well as a
number of other serious medical problems.
In the episode which goes to air on January 11, Joey, played by Alex O'Han,
has just finished his HSC and is on a camping and fishing holiday with his best
mate Aaron (Richie Gudgeon).
Joey is shown pulling the marijuana joint from the top pocket of his
flannelette shirt and offering it to Aaron.
"Want a drag?" Joey asks.
A shocked Aaron says: "What, are you kidding?.
"It's good stuff Aaron, this is really good stuff."
Aaron: "You know I'm totally against that sort of stuff, OK. Zero tolerance,
Joey. It's the only answer, man."
When Aaron asks why Joey smokes marijuana, his mate makes a mysterious reply.
"Well, I need it sometimes to relax me and get the voices out of my head."
Later in the episode Aaron leaves the campsite to fetch water.
When he comes back he hears Joey inside the small tent, shouting and throwing
camping gear about.
"Leave me alone," he cries, although no-one is present.
The episode ends with an anguished Joey screaming into the camera: "Go away,
just leave me alone."