Drug Policy

'They're Getting High for Free'


During the Super Bowl, as is its wont, the Office of National Drug Control Policy unveiled a new anti-drug PSA, featuring a curiously chatty drug dealer who complains that his business is down because all the kids are getting high off the pills they find in their parents' medicine cabinets. Presumably intended as a warning to parents, the ad also functions (like so much anti-drug propaganda) as a tip for kids. The drug dealer and the ONDCP may be equally imprudent in calling attention to the free highs available in the bathroom, but only one of them actually exists.

At Best Week Ever, Dan Hopper uses the new spot as an excuse to collect "The 10 Funniest Anti-Drug Commercials in Advertising History." Some of his choices, including the one featuring the fried egg representing your brain on drugs, the one showing a girl diving into a dry swimming pool, and the one in which Pee-Wee Herman warns kids that crack is both instantly addictive and instantly deadly, are justly recognized as classics. But a few of them I'd never seen before, including Hopper's top pick, in which the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles teach a classroom of schoolchildren how to respond when confronted by a fellow pipsqueak with a handful of joints. Michaelangelo, who suggests ordering a pizza, is clearly confused: That's what you do after smoking the pot.

Personally, I'm partial to the spot in which a heroin-chic Rachel Leigh Cook trashes a kitchen to demonstrate what happens after you snort a certain white powder, which merits only an "honorable mention" from Hopper. Here the creative geniuses at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America have managed to take the fried-egg ad, which was so hyperbolic it was legendary, the object of universal derision and satire (except at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, where it is still recalled with pride), and make it even more over the top. Plus she looks kinda hot swinging that frying pan.

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  1. Rachel Leigh Cook. Mmm, yummy!

    RLC was not herion chic – that was Kate Moss et al. You can’t have boobs like that and be called heroin chic.

  2. I remember the first time I saw that Rachel Leigh Cook ad, and all I could think was, “I’d like to get high with her and trash the kitchen”.

    Granted, that wasn’t the only thing I thought of, but I feel like being somewhat tasteful today…

  3. Well it’s been a year or so, and this is just crying out for a reposting. Probably for the last time as the PSA it parodies fades from memory

    Setting: Sunny day in the park, father and son taking a stroll.

    Kid: Dad, did you ever do drugs?
    Dad:[stammers] Well uhh

    [guy with large Que cards (QCG) runs up and holds up card that reads:

    Dad: [Looks at card, begins reading, vaguely dispassionate]
    Yeah I did, and it was a dumb …
    [shakes head begins speaking in engaged conversation voice ]
    Yeah, yeah I did. I did a lot of dumb things too. But I also had some great times. Some of the best moments of my life happened when I was high. Like the first time I made love to your mother.

    [QCG gets panicked look on face. Turns card over and reads it (twice) turns card back around and holds it up, waves it back and forth]

    Kid: Sooooo, you’re saying drugs made your life better?
    Dad: I’m saying that drugs are powerful things. And like all powerful things, you need to have a healthy fear of them. You see son, drugs, like cars, a little knowledge, and religion, can be very dangerous. But they can also be useful and life enhancing when used responsibly. It’s important that you educate yourself on the effects and risks before you start experimenting.

    [QCG rotates the “yeah I did” card to back of stack. He frantically waves the new top card which reads:

    Dad: [turns his back to QCG and faces his son] And the biggest risk of all is the fact that they’re illegal. Not only can you get arrested, but if you’re convicted you loose any chance of getting into college or landing a decent job. And of course there’s no FDA or even Consumer’s Reports to ensure purity and quality. For instance, Ecstasy is far safer than beer, but when you buy pills on the black market, there’s no way of knowing what is in them. You could be putting anything from sugar to cyanide in your body.

    [Father and son begin walking again. QCG violently throws the “no one ever” card away. His new card reads:
    He is walking backwards and jamming his finger at his card]

    Kid: So if making drugs illegal actually makes them more dangerous, why don’t we just end drug prohibition?
    Dad: Well it’s like I said son, people do a lot of dumb things.
    [Father and son continue talking and walk off together]
    [QCG trips and falls to ground, cards go flying. Close up on his face – look of exasperation]
    QCG: I need a drink

  4. I learned from watching you, Jacob Sullum! From you!

    If I wasn’t paying for the retarded things I’d get a lot more enjoyment out of them.

  5. The first thing I thought when I saw that Super Bowl ad was some kid sitting around without money to buy weed watching it and thinking, “Medicine cabinent… Cool. Thanks, anti-drug people!”

  6. The most effective anti-drug ads are not ads at all, but recent pictures of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty (oddly enough, he may actually have gotten his act together in the last month or two).

  7. de stijl,

    I was in NYC for Halloween this year and every fourth chick was dressed up like Amy Winehouse.

    My penis now hates New York City.

  8. no one with the kid getting high and playing with his dads gun? that was my fav

  9. The most effective anti-drug ads are not ads at all, but recent pictures of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty (oddly enough, he may actually have gotten his act together in the last month or two).

    The least effective anti drug ad.
    Alive at age 64.
    Dead at age 52.

    I believe Standard Libertarian Disclaimer #10 goes here.

  10. Anti-drug PSAs aren’t nearly as obnoxious as anti-smoking PSAs.

  11. #9 ghostwritten by David Mamet.

  12. Medicine cabinet was no good for me- my folks were plenty healthy and are still alive decades after I left home.

    On the other hand, my friend (whose father took 2 1/2 years to die of bone cancer) had access to all the good painkillers.

    Some guys have all the luck.

  13. Doesn’t this spot basically tell kids that it’s OK for mommy and daddy to get high on prescription drugs but not you?

  14. Off topic: The Daily Brickbat is a repeat from about a week ago.

  15. During the Super Bowl, I was thinking the same thing, that it was telling kids how to get high. I think if I was not a reason reader for a while now, I would not have had that perception.

    Thanks, guys, for helping me see the world, and making me go insane as a result.

  16. I’m no ad guru or anything, but aren’t Superbowl spots the most expensive fucking spots on TV!!!

    It’s bad enough that the waste so much money on the WoD, but do they have to rub it in our faces?

    Besides, the best anti-drug PSA was Tom Brady’s performance, and that cost nothing.

  17. The one where the guy accidentally blows his buddy’s head off with a shotgun while high is tops in my book. It was part of the same campaign that had potheads running over a girl on a tricycle as the peel out of a fast food drive-thu and the one where a little kid drowns in the pool because his babysitter brother is high on the couch. The tagline was something like, “Who says marijuana never hurt anyone?”

    Another favorite was a billboard that was around Pinellas County in the 90s. It was all black with reversed white type that read, “If you’re high you won’t remember reading this.” All I can say is – WRONG.

  18. Warren- that’s the first i’ve read that, genius and funny, i’ll have to save it.

  19. Damn. My personal favorite anti-drug PSA didn’t make the cut. The one where 80’s pop sensation Regina teams up with McGruff the crime dog to remind kids that, indeed, “Users are Losers” and likewise “Losers are Users”. It worked well on me when I was a boy!

  20. OK, so given the choice I’d be spending the money they use for these things on… well, lots of stuff. On the other hand, when you consider all the other shit the government throws away money on, at elast we get some entertainment out of these. I mean, c’mon: hot chick trashing kitchen on TV, or Bridge to Nowhere? They’re gonna spend the money either way.

    Oh, and Nick, you’re completely right. Those antismoking PSAs are so disgusting I feel like I have to leave the room. Then, since I’m outside anyway, I light up.

  21. I was only a kid during the eighties, but I was suprised I misremembered the “This is your brain on Drugs” ad.

    He seriously says “This is drugs”?!?! That’s weirding my shit out. Plus I always thought he showed the egg first and said “This is your brain”. Maybe the beginning of the ad was cut off.

    Also, Rachel Leigh Cook is less busty than I recalled/She’s All That convinced me to believe, so it’s just a reality-questioning day.

  22. The medicine cabinet drug commercial with the out of work drug dealer is hysterical. You would have thought the people who wrote it would have realized that if you have so many pain meds in your cabinet that your kid can get addicted by stealing them, maybe you have problem. Unless you are a cancer patient, in which case your poor kid who is watching his parent dies deserves a few good drugs, you probably shouldn’ thave more than one bottle of Tylnol 3 in your medicine cabinet.

  23. Doesn’t this spot basically tell kids that it’s OK for mommy and daddy to get high on prescription drugs but not you?

    Not only that, but it meant that parents while high on drugs still had the responsibility and ability to keep their children from them. However, failing that, that making the drugs available in that form would put illicit dealers out of business.

  24. I laughed when i saw this PSA, i’ve never known a dealer have problem moving his product due to a lack of demand. Doesn’t matter what he’s selling, besides a medicine cabniet full is only going to last so long and who will the kid go to for his percocet and oxy fix? the same guy, they’re pretty diversified that way.

  25. Hard to find, quickly withdrawn ‘cuz it was so f*cking racist: nervous, middle-class white guy heading into the Big House, surrounded by enormous black guys muttering “mmmmmm! Fresh meat!”

    Also, from Armed Forces TV in Vietnam, a GI classic: Grunts (blue legs, if you want to be totally RVN) on patrol, take five. One lights up. “Aw, are you still smokin’ that stuff?” says one of his buddies. “Don’t bring me down, man! I’m ENJOYING THE WAR” Cut to dream sequence, the grassman swinging his machete in slow motion, then the ugly return to reality: the whole platoon is dead. A dude with an AK-47 resting on his hip surveys the carnage with grim satisfaction. Mary Jane, the commie’s best friend!

  26. Alan,

    At least from my experience in europe the quality of AFN PSAs hasn’t improved much.

  27. On the other hand, my friend (whose father took 2 1/2 years to die of bone cancer) had access to all the good painkillers.

    One of my high school buddies lived with his brother, an MD and a Vietnam Vet who caught some shrapnel. Medicine cabinet jammed with the good stuff.

    We used it more as a supplement than a substitute for teh street drugs.

  28. Okay … remember:

    Guy’s running hard, sweating. A child’s voice says, “I wanna be a track star when I grow up.” Then we see the guy running, finally caught by his pursuer, a COP! A new voice comes on, it’s the boy, much older saying, “Nobody ever says, ‘I wanna be a junkie when I grow up.'”

    Classic. I think there was one with a ballerina too.

  29. You know, whats ironic is prescription drugs are actually safer than street drugs since you at least know what you’re getting. If the Feds really cared about “the children” they’d rather have them taking prescription drugs over street drugs.

  30. Peter,
    I remember “Nobody ever says, ‘I wanna be a junkie when I grow up.'” I remember thinking “He’s right. I’ve never given ‘junkie’ a second thought. I should consider it.”

  31. Nobody ever says, ‘I wanna be a junkie when I grow up.’

    Against Me! – Thrash Unreal. Strange video mix with snippets from Harry Potter movies, cut scenes from Final Fantasy, etc.

  32. I actually LIKE the fried-egg ad. After I do a lot of drugs, that’s exactly what my brain feels like.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  33. I remember that Rachel Leigh Cook one where she smashes up a kitchen.

    God, that was HOT.

  34. anyone see this add:


    it does seem a little racist and goofy.

  35. I remember watching the anti-smoking commercials and thinking that since I don’t smoke I ought to just mail some money to the tobacco companies.

  36. “If the Feds really cared about “the children” they’d rather have them taking prescription drugs over street drugs.”

    Only one problem, you need to give the children a guide to dosage / body weight, so precious Johnny and Buffy will know how to avoid the embarrassment of an OD, right in Mommy’s and Daddy’s house.

    /Don’t you just hate it, coming home to a dead teen. Don’t let this happen to you folks, start your youngsters off on some kiddie Oxycontin in orange and cherry flavor, mmmm, delicious.

  37. Whatever happened to that one from the early seventies whose tagline was “why do you think they call it dope”? I think it involved a playground.

  38. SomeJames, try this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9OGpiB7Zpo

    It is the full 30-second version with “this is your brain.”

  39. Only one problem, you need to give the children a guide to dosage / body weight


  40. I don’t have any good stuff, but the wife has prednisone and inhalers for asthma. This stupid commercial made me have a drug conversation when I noticed my bright 10 year old’s head perk up when he say it!

    I guess they have to drum up business to keep their phony baloney jobs.

  41. I figured this post would be about how the ONDCP didn’t have to pay for its superbowl commercial unlike everyone else. I’m sure they get to air their propaganda for free. Which, I suppose is better than wasting our tax dollars on it. Actually…. i’m not sure. If they have to spend tax dollars then they’re presumably more accountable when their ads don’t work. But no matter what, they’ll say the ads work. And then get more tax dollars. But if the commercials are free (due to threats from the government over FCC fines n stuff), it is unfair to those who would like to advertise a competing message during the superbowl (or any other time), is viewpoint discrimination, and makes me sick. Actually I get sick either way.

    I’m going to go throw up now.

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