Study: Government’s anti-drug commercials make teenagers more curious about drugs


WASHINGTON, DC — A new study has discovered that teenagers who watch anti-drug TV commercials become more “curious” about illegal drugs. So why, the Libertarian Party asked today, are taxpayers being forced to pay for those ads?

“According to this study, the government is spending $195 million a year of our money to tantalize teenagers about illegal drugs,” said Steve Dasbach, the party’s national director. “Shouldn’t Americans have a choice about whether we want to fund what is essentially a ‘Just Do It’ advertising campaign for drugs?”

In a study released earlier this year, two researchers found that teenagers who viewed anti-drug Public Service Announcements (PSAs) “were more curious about using illicit drugs” than participants who didn’t see the PSAs.

According to the authors of the study, assistant professor S. Shyam Sundar at Penn State University and doctoral student Carson Wagner at the University of Colorado (Boulder), students exposed to anti-drug PSAs desired more “experimental knowledge” about drugs, not just “knowledge about drug-related facts.”

And the study found the “mere mention” of illegal drugs in PSAs created an “everybody’s doing it” effect in teenagers — and caused them to “increase estimations” of the prevalence of drug use among their peers.

These findings come at a crucial time, since the federal government has sharply increased the amount of money it spends on anti-drug commercials. Currently, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America spend about $195 million of taxpayers’ money to broadcast anti-drug PSAs.

Wouldn’t it be tragic then, asked Dasbach, if that $195 million is making America’s drug problem worse?

“According to this study, the government is effectively acting as a tax-funded advertising agency for drug pushers,” he said. “And, unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it. If a private anti-drug organization was running these ads, you could threaten to withhold your contributions. With the government, you don’t have that option — even if politicians use your money to glamorize drugs to teenagers.”

“One concerned parent is more effective than $195 million in government-funded advertising,”

But if government anti-drug television ads don’t work, what does?

Parents, said Dasbach. According to another recent study, children who are warned about the potential dangers of drugs by their parents are 36% less likely to use marijuana than children whose parents don’t discuss the issue, and 56% less likely to use cocaine.

“One concerned parent is more effective than $195 million in government-funded advertising,” noted Dasbach. “Given that information, what is the real solution to the problem of drugs — the government or parents?”

Interestingly, even the government has figured out the answer to that question, he said. A new government-funded newspaper advertisement states: “The most effective deterrent to drug use among kids isn’t the police, or prison, or politicians. [It] is their parents.”

That’s an astonishing revelation from the government, said Dasbach.

“Let’s see: The government admits police and prison are not an effective deterrent. Does that mean politicians will promise to stop arresting 700,000 people a year for marijuana crimes? And the government admits politicians are not an effective deterrent. Does that mean we’ll get back the $195 million they wasted on anti-drug advertisements?” he asked.

If not, it proves one thing, said Dasbach: “Not even the government pays attention to its anti-drug ads. So why should we expect teenagers to do so?”

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One comment on “Study: Government’s anti-drug commercials make teenagers more curious about drugs

  1. I really wish articles like this would get more attention. If any american (from any party) heard that the government was essentially wasting nearly $200 million dollars a year then they would be furious. (I understand that this article is old, but I don't think the mentality on anti drug campaigns has changed, and I know we have worse money troubles in this country than we used to.) Unfortunately nobody will believe that the anti drug campaign actually makes things worse. If parents would start thinking for themselves and stop relying on the tv to teach their children we wouldn't have these problems. The last few generations of parents have not been up to par on this issue in my opinion. I don't want to generalize, but you still have to look at the overall pattern.

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