Dispatches from the Drug War

You have certainly seen the “Anti-Drug” commercials on television. You know, the ones that encourage kids to find some more interesting or useful alternative to doing drugs. Well, a new study comes up with a startling conclusion: watching anti-marijuana commercials actually reduces negative attitudes toward marijuana. And as usual, there’s a government contractor behind the scenes raking in the taxpayer dough.

The study, published in Addictive Behaviors, took 229 college students, 18 and 19 years old, surveyed them on their attitudes toward tobacco and marijuana. Then they showed half the students science programming interspersed with anti-tobacco ads, and the other half science programming interspersed with anti-marijuana ads.

Guess what happened next?

According to the study, “attitudes to marijuana became less negative among students that watched anti-marijuana ads than the group with anti-tobacco ads.”

“The group exposed to anti-marijuana [ads] shows significantly less negative attitudes [toward] marijuana–than the group exposed to anti-tobacco ads, while controlling for differences in preexisting attitudes,” they report. “The same pattern of differences in the opposite than intended direction emerged from responses to questions about the intention to use marijuana.” — Hit and Run

The boomerang effect of the government’s anti-drug ads is well known, and this is hardly the first study to document it. Consider this Texas State University study from 2004:

“For example, in response to ads linking drug use to the war on terror, the most frequent unanticipated thoughts were that marijuana should be legalized, the war on drugs has been ineffective, and that marijuana users should grow their own,” said lead author Maria Czyzewska of the Texas State Department of Psychology. “This is a classic example of the boomerang effect: commercials producing a response that is precisely the opposite of what the ads’ creators intended.” — NORML

But the ads are a bonanza for the government’s favorite propaganda firm, Fleishman-Hillard, who produces the advertising and manages the government’s anti-drug propaganda Web sites The Anti-Drug and Free Vibe. Congress spends billions of dollars on it, in fact, a good chunk of which winds up in the hands of Fleishman-Hillard for the purpose of producing more anti-drug propaganda which seems to be encouraging teenagers to have a more favorable view of drugs.

The firm also manages public relations for the Department of Homeland Security and probably other government agencies.

In closing, I want to leave you with a different sort of anti-drug ad which, when I watched it, suddenly put the whole thing into perspective.

One thought on “Dispatches from the Drug War

  • May 21, 2006 at 7:08 am

    Is it just me, or is every government trying to find ways to filter money, into small companys that noone really hears about. They try and justify there spending with crap commerciasl like this, when it isn’t going to do anything but scare parents further.

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