Study: Drug campaign a $1B bust-Philadelphia News

October 15, 2008 4:13:49 PM PDT
U.S. government officials crowed last month about a report showing a drop in marijuana use among teenagers. Anti-drug campaigns got part of the credit.

However, a study by the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania contends a well-known series of anti-drug ads was a dismal failure - to the tune of $1 billion.

The study examined the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign which ran between 1998 and 2004. Congress appropriated the money for the campaign, which incorporated a signature phrase, "-----: My Anti-Drug."

It was aimed at youths 9 to 18 years of age, their parents, and other influential adults. The goals were to give adolescents the skills to resist drug use, to give them alternatives to recreational drug use, and to lay out the negative consequences of drug use.

But after examining the campaign's effects, the researchers discovered that the glossy, highly-styled drive had no impact on teens. And the team concluded it may actually have had a "boomerang effect" that made some young people more receptive to marijuana use, by implying that "all the other kids" were indeed using drugs.

The report states, ""...youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana. In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves."

Some drug abuse experts say that if rates of marijuana use are dropping, something else is driving it.

Government anti-drug campaigners defend their efforts, saying there is strong evidence that other projects, especially those targeted against inhalant abuse, have worked.


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