Anti-Drug PSAs, Do They Work?


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1342917732_original-logo-above-the-influence-teens-7050386-500-400.gifSince the 1980s, in an effort to fight the war on drugs, the United States government has implemented the use of anti-illicit-drug public-service announcements (PSAs). The "Just Say No" advertisement was a campaign that taught children various ways to say no to engaging in illegal recreational drug use. It also taught student skills in resisting peer-pressure and other influences. But how effective are these anti-drug campaigns?

 

As a young lad, I remember watching these anti-drug PSAs with my friends and laughing at them. I specifically remember an MTV "Above The Influence" commercial with a dog and a girl. The dog was telling the girl that he didn't like it when she smoked pot and the girl said she could stop anytime she wanted. The dog said how bout right now? And she said maybe tomorrow, or something along those lines. My friends and I were about 15 or 16 and we thought it was the stupidest commercial we'd ever seen. It didn't make us want to never smoke pot at all, and I'm sure many American teenagers felt the same way. This is a classic anti-drug PSA, "This is your brain on drugs." (http://youtu.be/ub_a2t0ZfTs) It shows a man in a kitchen. He holds up an egg and says, "This is your brain," then he shows the frying pan, "This is drugs." He then cracks the egg onto the frying pan and says, "This is your brain on drugs," while the egg cooks. In my honest opinion that is the most ridiculous analogy, and it DOES NOT deter kids from doing drugs.

 

In February, 2002, an observational study was done to determine the relative perceived effectiveness of 30 antidrug PSAs. 3,608 students in grades 5 through 12 in 10 schools were used for this study. Students in 5 experimental conditions filled out 6 questionnaires after viewing sets of 6 antidrug PSAs. The control group filled out questionnaires after viewing non-drug-related PSAs. The results varied greatly. Compared to the control group, "16 were rated as significantly more effective, and 6 were as significantly less effective" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447050/). In conclusion to this study, there are anti-drug PSAs that show an effect opposite to the one initially intended, therefore should not be shown at all.

 

Instead of showing lame analogies about the effects of illegal recreation drug use, PSAs should show actual negative consequences to engaging in the activity. For example, the anti-cigarette campaign shows disgusting pictures of shriveled up, tar-filled lungs. That, in my opinion, is an effective deterrent of adolescent cigarette smoking.

3 Comments

I always remember health class in high school and middle school where kids would always react as you stated, laughing at the videos because they were kind off funny. Though these videos are just supposed to do the exact opposite, kids nowadays don't really care and find a kind of excitement by doing these illegal drugs. I remember that kids in the background of these videos would talk amongst themselves how none of this was true and that they had tried it before and it doesn't do anything. I think the government needs to come up with some more effective videos, or the drug doing population of kids will grow.

Now this is a hilarious anti drug commercial
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-ZPf_dOG7U

I completely agree with you that those 'Above the Influence' campaigns weren't very effective towards adolescents. They were a creative concept, but they weren't executed successfully. This article is about how anti-drug campaigns need to change. There was a study that showed even when you know the risks about the substances, you consume more instead of less. The article suggests the campaigns should be more interactive and trigger the critical thinking part of your brain. The anti-drug campaigns have good intentions, but they still need to be tweaked in order to be more effective.

This post immediately made me think of an anti drug campaign we had in grade school, named D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Looking back on it now, it seemed like a thing that my classmates didn't take seriously, because there was a lack of assertion of its damaging effects. Like the Above the Influence campaign in your post, D.A.R.E. failed to keep some of my classmates from becoming users. I think the key points that we discussed in our lecture apply to this situation, as we learned how influential anecdotes can be. With the addition of stronger, more persuasive accounts of the dangers of drug use, I think programs such as this can be more effective.

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