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DO ADS HELP STEM FLOOD OF DRUG ABUSE?
INDUSTRY SAYS YES; EDUCATORS SAY MAYBE; AND ADDICTS SNORT DERISIVELY

A woman's face appears on the television screen with a car, a stereo and a house disappearing up her nose like a stream of cocaine. A tear eventually streams down her cheek.

In another public service announcement, comedian and talk show host Arsenio Hall interviews drug addicts, one as young as 13, about how their lives went off track.One of the most familiar anti-drug ads depicts a fried egg sizzling and burning as an ominous voice intones: "This is your brain on drugs."

TV networks have provided millions of dollars' worth of free air time to broadcast these announcements produced free-of-charge by advertisers.

But do they do any good?

The advertising agencies think they do, according to the Media-Advertising Partnership for a Drug-Free America and its sister organization, The Advertising Council, which organize many of the ad efforts.

William J. Bennett, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also believes they help, and the producer of a survey on high school drug abuse credits the ads with reducing that abuse.

But others say the ads are ineffective and a waste of money.

Don Des Jarlais, an epidemiologist who works with heroin and cocaine addicts in New York City, said addicts speak "derisively" of the ads when they refer to them at all.

"The preliminary data I've seen indicate they do change some attitudes, but in terms of actually changing drug use, that remains to be seen," he said.

Donald Streater, a 17-year heroin addict who quit 13 1/2 years ago, earned a law degree and now works for the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, said, "I would like to see some of that money going into treatment programs instead."

Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television, contended the ads are "conscience money for a society that is not taking care of that part of the population that's most likely to get involved in drugs."

"It makes the ad industry feel it's OK to advertise the products of their clients in programs that glamorize crime in the streets, violence against women and the culture that gives rise to drug dealing," she said.

Theresa Venet Grant of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America rejected that contention, saying programs such as "21 Jump Street," "Growing Pains" and "Family Ties" are making a "conscious effort to deglamorize drug use."

But an academic who has studied the ratio of pro-drug to anti-drug messages on television said TV is delivering too many mixed messages for the anti-drug ads to have an impact.

The ratio is 8 to 1 in favor of pro-drug messages, including programs and advertisements showing people smoking, drinking or taking medicines, said John Condry, a Cornell University professor who has spent the past year at the Center for Research on the Influences of Television on Children at the University of Kansas at Lawrence.