Monday, November 10, 2008

Drugs Kill... and cripple... and lead to HIV...and more

Anti-drug messages in the media are intended to scare rather than foster educated debate
Image courtesy of

The European Union is joining America in its anti-drug campaigning and preparing to launch its first drug awareness initiative. America's war on drugs, however, is hardly an ideal model. A new study shows that the billion dollar tax-payer-funded investment with heavy print and broadcast focus “failed to convince young children and teenagers to stay away from marijuana and actually might have encouraged some to try smoking pot.” The advertising led pre-teens to consider drugs as a ‘normal’ part of life. These messages also lead to a ‘forbidden fruit’ effect. Despite these charges, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was quick to point out "drug use among teens has dropped steadily in nearly every category since 2001."

There is a difference between an informative campaign and blatant fear mongering. Associating drug use with STDs and graphic images (see freaky anti-drug commercial) not only confuses the message but closes the door to healthy debate. The Office of National Drug Control Policy created a series of video news releases – advertising disguised as prepackaged news stories, failing to explicitly identify themselves as the producers. This is nothing short of ‘covert propaganda’. These tactics are successful when used by car and lingerie advertisers. But they do not encourage a conversation with the viewer as a successful anti-drug campaign should.

The media has been happy to milk the anti-drug campaign for advertising dollars for the last ten years. As of 1998, the Magazine Publishers of America have agreed not only to run advertising but to support it with convincing editorials, blatantly admitting to excluding contradictory opinions. I was under the impression that journalists aimed to provide unbiased coverage of both sides of an issue, no matter how noble a cause may be.


M. Dery said...

Interesting, off-the-beaten-path subject. Very original of you. Solid use of supporting evidence to shore up your argument. Kept wondering if you'd mention, even passingly, the controversial D.A.R.E. program many American elementary school students are turnstiled through, despite little evidence (to my knowledge) that it actually works. Also, found myself wondering why anti-drug public-service ads don't work, whereas anti-drinking ads seem to be having some effect. Or do they? Also, you might have compared the use of VNRs in this context to the Bush administration's use of them to promote its legislation and policies via local TV news outlets. Still, thoughtful, original post.

Joann L said...

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Sharon said...


1 in 4 sexually active teenagers become infected with an STD every year, in the United States alone. Now, more than ever, we need to join together to fight this growing issue. As I read through your website, it is clear that you share the same passion for STD/STI awareness. We here, at, understand the importance of STD/STI prevention and treatments. If you could, please list us as a resource or host our social book mark button, it would be much appreciated. We can not reach every teenager, but together we can try.
If you need more information please email me back with the subject line as your URL.

Thank you,
Sharon Vegoe