Drug Policy

The Real Surprise: Only 50 Percent Thought the Ads Exaggerated

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The Montana Meth Project, an absurdly hyperbolic ad compaign that warns of ghastly consequences from even the most casual contact with the stimulant (its tag line: "Not Even Once"), has attracted state and federal funding, generated plaudits across the country, and spawned similar efforts in other states. Yet according to a research review in the December issue of the journal Prevention Science, there is no evidence the campaign works and several indications that it's counterproductive. The author, David Erceg-Hurn, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Western Australia, notes that "meth use had been declining for at least six years before the ad campaign commenced, which suggests that factors other than the graphic ads cause reductions in meth use." Furthermore, exposure to the ads is associated with what are usually considered to be undesirable attitude changes:

Following six months exposure to the MMP's graphic ads, there was a threefold increase in the percentage of teenagers who reported that using meth is not a risky behaviour; teenagers were four times more likely to strongly approve of regular meth use; teenagers were more likely to report that taking heroin and cocaine is not risky; and up to 50% of teenagers reported that the graphic ads exaggerate the risks of using meth.

Erceg-Hurn concludes:

Claims that the campaign is effective are not supported by data. The campaign has been associated with increases in the acceptability of using methamphetamine and decreases in the perceived danger of using drugs. These and other negative findings have been ignored and misrepresented by the MMP. There is no evidence that reductions in methamphetamine use in Montana are caused by the advertising campaign. On the basis of current evidence, continued public funding and rollout of Montana-style methamphetamine programs is inadvisable.

I criticized meth hyperbole in a 2005 column and raised concerns similar to Erceg-Hurn's about the Montana campaign in 2006. The project's backers should take comfort from the fact that similar levels of empirical support did not prevent the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign from receiving $1.5 billion in taxpayer money since 1998 or keep DARE from becoming (and remaining) the dominant drug "education" model in the nation's schools.

[via the Drug War Chronicle]

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  1. Given the deflationary climate, 15 bucks for sex may not be normal to these drug warriors, but it is fast becoming a market norm.

  2. Oh my god these are awesome. Especially the bottom one.

    “My friends and I share everything. Now we share hepatitis.”

    Fantastic find, Jacob.

    I am going to take some drugs now. Seriously.

  3. How did they come up with fifteen bucks? Why not ten or twenty?

  4. How did they come up with fifteen bucks?

    They went out and paid a meth-head for sex. Duh. Don’t you? They’re desperate, dude!

  5. Also, I wonder if the “$15” message there is supposed to be that $15 is too much or too little to pay for sex. Are they anti-slut or anti-whore?

  6. Epi, yeah, that makes sense. Or maybe they use the same method as LEAs use to determine that a dime bag has a street value of $12,000.

  7. For $15, you get one with no teeth, thus the high price. See how the ads tie in to one another?

  8. The best was the Good Morning Meth skit with Jason Lee on SNL. It was on Youtube but I couldn’t find it.

  9. Epi and cunnivore-

    Maybe the message contains an unintended public service benefit for those who patronize adult entertainment services: You get what you pay for.

    I hate ending sentences with prepositions.

  10. I’d hit that for 15 bucks.

  11. Oh wait…I’m paying her?!?!?

  12. The people who made these ads obviously think they have a perfect right to cause extremely unpleasant emotions in others. What jerks.

  13. LOL
    Those ads are hilarious.
    My favorite is “Bathtub”
    WTF?

  14. Meth should be legalized so I can realize my dream of a British fast-zombie apocalypse .

  15. 15 bucks? It doesn’t look like she was bucking at all.

  16. Blood is an excellent lubricant, Lamar.

  17. …, lol. I don’t see a strong, manly lumberjack type like the guy in the picture paying $15 to bone a skeleton with meth blossoms.

  18. Epi, I hope you’re right. I’d hate to think that extreme porn has been lying to me all these years.

  19. I thought the first picture was a Pogues ad.

    Shane MacGowan, having horrible teeth before it was cool.

    Nephilium

  20. Part of this campaign’s lack of credibility has to come from the fact that they’re clearly using models in makeup to portray meth users. If $15 is all it costs for hot, hairy lumberjack sex with a meth addict, why can’t they just pay that money to actual meth users, and then photograph them?

  21. I wouldn’t think Cyberdyne would allow their products to be subject to physical addiction. (Otoh, the evil no good Alliance would promote such characteristics in the subjects of their experiments)

  22. Also, the lumberjack picture reminds me of the back cover to Songs About Fucking.

  23. British fast zombies? Are they faster than Italian fast zombies?

  24. I also wonder if the Attorney General’s Task Force on Pornography has subpoenaed records for that $15 photo, to make sure that the actress is over 18.

  25. So when she isn’t modeling as a $15 crank whore is she in the Missoula or Great Falls newspaper bridal shop ads?

  26. 15 BUCKS FOR SEX ISN’T NORMAL.

    BUT IN MONTANA IT IS.

  27. Who the hell pays $15 for sex anymore?!! You can get it for $12.50 with the economy the way it is.

  28. WTF.. 15 bucks for sex isn’t normal?

    Of course it isn’t if you shop around. But sometimes you want to spend a little extra for the good stuff, so 15 bucks is quite ok.

  29. That last one seems like an ad FOR meth, rather than against it.

  30. Hell the doc won’t give me a penny for sex but he always pays for my drugs.

  31. Wow, the ads are terrible. And, were they stealing a microwave in the “Family” one? And the “Bathtub” one is like a scene from a B horror flick.

  32. I am not qualified to comment.

  33. Dude when I saw that last pic I said Epi has to see this, I hope he has because he would find it funny.

    And I clicked and he has and did.

    “For $15, you get one with no teeth, thus the high price. See how the ads tie in to one another?”

    lol

    That’s the good thing about SWC fans, you know they are not full of political correct bullshit and can laugh at such things.

  34. “Stoney and I would go over to Buckle’s, and Puff would turn us on to a hot load of mescaline crumbled into a tumbler of ether with a float of Percocet jimmies. I’d wake up with blood on my ass, and then we’d get high. Those were some good times!”

  35. “15 bucks for sex isn’t normal. But on meth it is.”

    Bureaucratically speaking here, are they robbing Peter to pay Paul in the wonderland world of vice?

    How can so many here resist being peaceful anarchists?
    Hard-headed?

    Ruthless

  36. While the ads may be taking it over the top with models in makeup, etc., I still think meth’s a pretty damn scary drug from the few sad encounters with obvious (ab)users I’ve had. It’s also one of the most addictive – hence the “not even once” slogan which you seem to mock. Considering that the ads are targeting teenagers who are not as likely to understand concepts like restraint and responsible use, I do think the ads are effective. Bad horror movies can be effective too.

    Let’s also note that in the first 2+ years of the project, it was completely privately funded – run by a billionaire. The legislature decided to give the guy money – I don’t really know if he actually needed or lobbied for it. And let’s also note that many of the scenarios are not actually uncommon among serious meth addicts. It’s difficult to argue with the point, even if the presentation is a bit much.

    While I hate the war on drugs, I think even in the event of legalization of drugs, education is a completely worthwhile expenditure. Anti-drug ad campaigns are probably the least harmful area of the drug war. These ads would probably be even more effective if they involved real users(recovering addicts, for instance) instead of actors.

    I also note that, as a government funded campaign, at least this has a valid purpose (confronting a real problem) unlike many of the other government-funded gooey inspirational public service announcements that seem to serve absolutely no purpose other than flushing taxpayer dollars down a drain.

    We can argue about effectiveness all we want, but I’d say it would need to be a sustained effort before we can gauge a correlation between an educational ad campaign and a reduction of drug use, and even then it may be difficult. Would the stats have been even worse without these ads, which surely must have affected a statistically significant number of teens enough to decide not to use meth? I think such ads would be much scarier and more effective to pre-teens who have not had to make the decision to use it or not yet.

  37. Alright – changed my mind a bit. Apparently $4.3 million was cut from meth treatment centers while funding for the MPP was doubled. That’s crap.

  38. Speed Kills!

  39. We can argue about effectiveness all we want, but I’d say it would need to be a sustained effort before we can gauge a correlation

    I’d say we could leave that up to a researcher who can address such questions through the application of appropriate statistical methods — for example, someone trained in clinical psychology. If only such a person would show some interest in the topic, they might be able to reach an objective conclusion, founded on some kind of data.

    Alas, I think we are doomed to bat our opinions back and forth.

  40. PS Those ads are funny. What’s funniest to me is that they expect teenagers to be convinced by Photoshopping.

  41. Ya know, that chick kinda looks like Chrisina Ricci. I’d hit it.

    Nick

  42. Hey, isn’t that the chick from the old Cosby show on the bottom of the doggie pile? See what meth does to people?

  43. I’ve seen people who like like the picture but they were all pretty strung out. One guy eventually hung himself. He was better off and so was the neighborhood.

    Meth is bad shit, even hippies didn’t do it.

    I’m not disputing the point that casual usage isn’t going to make you look like the girl in the picture. But if you’ve ever known any full-on sketchers, well, they’re worse than any heroin junkie.

  44. I’ve got a twenty, can I go bareback?

  45. Jesus SIV, do you not watch zombie movie? British zombies are fast and angry, American zombies are slow and shambling.

  46. as a resident of butte, i will assure the males here that, hot-wise, that’s pretty much the top of the food chain. i suspect she was imported from idaho.

    ida-ho. get it? har har.

  47. Ida-ho you had last night and I still ain’t been paid!

    /tended bar in a piano bar way back in the day and that shit’s firmly in the memory

  48. British zombies are fast and angry, American zombies are slow and shambling.

    The remake of “Dawn of the Dead” had fast zombies and “Shaun of the Dead” had slow zombies, so I don’t know about that. Also, if the British zombies you speak of are from “28 Days Later”, then I’m sorry but they aren’t zombies 😛

  49. I still think meth’s a pretty damn scary drug from the few sad encounters with obvious (ab)users I’ve had. It’s also one of the most addictive – hence the “not even once” slogan which you seem to mock.

    You do realize that methamphetamine is schedule II, and prescribed under the name Desoxyn to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, don’t you? If it made addicts with one dose, you might think that the FDA would have problems with giving it to seven year-olds who can’t sit still in class.

    While I hate the war on drugs, I think even in the event of legalization of drugs, education is a completely worthwhile expenditure. Anti-drug ad campaigns are probably the least harmful area of the drug war. These ads would probably be even more effective if they involved real users(recovering addicts, for instance) instead of actors.

    It’s not the job of the government to tell the citizenry what to think.

  50. American zombies are slow.English zombies are slow.The Italian zombies in Lenzi’s Nightmare City are really fast.

  51. You do realize that methamphetamine is schedule II, and prescribed under the name Desoxyn to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, don’t you? If it made addicts with one dose, you might think that the FDA would have problems with giving it to seven year-olds who can’t sit still in class.

    Tacos, mmmm, I love you man, but you gotta know that if the government is giving the shit to 7 year olds that it is bad shit.

    Secondly, little kids that get that stuff are a billion times more likely to keep on with it. I’ve seen the stats, which I shall not link to, because it is too much work.

    RITALIN! Because parenting is so fucking hard.

  52. The hour of the ox
    My high is pure: just free speech
    Hit and Run my meth

  53. I think the Law of Unintended Consequences happened with the $15 meth addict fuck ad — a lot of teenaged boys are gonna be thinking, she’s not half bad, I’d hit that, and I can get wild lawn sex for only $15? We need MORE meth addled chicks!

    Not to mention Teh Gaiz who think, if I do a lot of meth and grow my hair and dress kinda androgynous, I’d get to do hot lawn sex with burly lumberjack dudes. Kewl!

  54. Perhaps it would be helpful if they explained in the ads what would be a normal price for sex (a range of $80 to $300, with a median of $150 to $200 based on

    Craigslist Honolulu (I’m guessing it’s cheaper on the Mainland)

    so their apparent target audience for these ads — girls thinking of becoming hookers — could know how much loss of revenue they’re facing if they do meth.

    Revised ad campaign: “Don’t do meth — it’ll reduce your prostitution earnings by up to 90%!”

  55. I defer to Primus for my drug advice

    So sit back and have a cup o joe
    And watch the wheels go round
    cause those damned blue-collar tweekers
    Have always run this town

    That girl in the lumberjack picture looks like a ‘star’ in a Max Hardcore movie.

  56. Following six months exposure to the MMP’s graphic ads, there was a threefold increase in the percentage of teenagers who reported that using meth is not a risky behaviour; teenagers were four times more likely to strongly approve of regular meth use;

    Beautiful. I think their ad campaign did two, maybe three things: it raised the profile of meth, made it seem extra edgy, and by straining credulity sucked all the credibility out of the non-bullshit warnings about meth.

  57. Allow me to weigh in on this late because I’ve used meth, I was addicted to meth, and a quit meth, cold-turkey, on my own and I never looked back.

    I first tried meth in 1995 after I was dicharged from the military. It was effective and did what I wanted to do. At first I saw tremendous benefits, my ADHD was unmedicated at the time and I was able to focus, concentrate, accomplish tasks, stay up and party… Lots of really significant improvements at the time.

    Then I started my downward spiral and I quickly learned that meth was not for me. I was putting myself in some pretty dangerous situations to get it. I was using way too much and started having schizophrenic delusions when I would stay up for days on end.

    I new I had to stop or it would destroy my life and so I did. I cut ties with my friends. I moved away for a while. I did what I needed to do to remove myself from the temptation to go back, and I never used it again.

    The government is so far behind the curve on the meth craze we’re really into the next inning already. Meth was the rage on the club scene here nearly a decade ago and it’s way past chic at this point.

    Kids already don’t trust the ONDCP’s asinine anti-marijuana ads, leaving no credibility for ant-meth ads. Meth addiction is serious as is heroin addiction and I know women that have sold themselves for both, it’s not a joking matter. But, when the government that has no credibility then create ads that show what meth addiction really looks like, kids look at these ads as a joke.

    Kids no marijuana won’t make you violent, won’t make you prostitute yourself, and won’t kill you. To then lump meth into the same category lessens the risks of meth in the minds of the teens.

  58. I saw a bunch of these billboards in Grand Rapids last year, along with some magnificent gun stores and an extremely gay man driving an extremely neon pink Trans Am. I think I might have to move to Montana.

  59. Even if all the money and time spent on these ads just saved one person from meth, it was well worth it!! Meth Kills!

  60. I still think meth’s a pretty damn scary drug from the few sad encounters with obvious (ab)users I’ve had. It’s also one of the most addictive – hence the “not even once” slogan which you seem to mock. Considering that the ads are targeting teenagers who are not as likely to understand concepts like restraint and responsible use, I do think the ads are effective. Bad horror movies can be effective too.

    Oh, where to begin?

    I’ve used amphetamines/speed etc. Even ran meth once. At 5’10?”*, 145 lbs I figured out all on my own that speed would not be a good habit to adopt. I can see myself using speed again under certain circumstances but advise others that it is not a good choice for recreational drug use.

    I remember my youth and the bullshit anti-drug ads my benevolent but truth challenged government drug warriors inundated me with. Then I smoked some weed and realized that I had been lied to about marijuana by the government and MSM my entire life. I then disregarded all of the warnings about depreesants, stimulants, hallucinogens, opiates and other narcotics. Some of the illegal substances I ingested are really dangerous shit but how was I to know? The ubiquitous propoganda had been amply demonstrated to be ureliable half truths at best.

    So I experimented on my own. Speed I’ve talked a bit about above and would never recommend to anybody for recreational use. Halluniogens (acid, shrooms, peyote) did not cause me to lose my mind, jump off of a skyscraper, stare at the sun until I went blind, induce permanent schizophrenia, causae flashbacks (darn, no free trips) bolstering the case for further prudent experimentation. I do not recommend hallucinogens to those who don’t know their own minds, but believe they have some beneficial effects for strong minds.

    Like speed, opiates and cocaine are not instantly addictive and are both too expensive for the amount of hedonistic pleasure they provide. They are not a good buy for your drug dollar, but are no more dangerous to an intelligent, self-willed adult than alcohol has been documented to be.

    Bottom line is, you lie to youth about some things and they will naturally disregard all the truths you tell on the subject once they see through your lies.

    They will see through them too. They will mock the lies unmercifully. I owned a T-shirt in the ’70s that had a Reefer Madnes movi poster printed on the front. From the poster/shirt – “Weed from the devil’s garden” and “They took a drag of concentrated sin”.

    * I insist on that ?”. 😉

  61. Ganja Blue,
    Congrats on posessing the ability to know something could be a problem and dealing with it.

    Way back in the day (early 90s) I snorted meth. While I sometimes did it too often, I never had an addiction issue. And, while I never had a problem with hard drugs, I might have one with booze and there’s evidence in my personal life that would indicate that I should quit drinking. I could do it cold turkey if it weren’t so fucking ingrained in normal, everyday activity.

    Hell, at 2 I have to go to a boozed up party at my 75 year old neighbor’s house.

  62. C.mon miche. There will be mixers there to drink without alcohol. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve heard even a mild rebuke to no thanks, I’ll just have a coke.

  63. Halluniogens (acid, shrooms, peyote) did not … causae flashbacks

    But they like totally screwed with your Latin declensions!

  64. Friggin squirrels got the munchies.

  65. My very favorite print ad was the one using the threat of prison rape to scare the kiddies off meth. Take one of the biggest affronts to any notion of fairness and decency in justice system, our inability or unwillingness to provide basic protections to the people we imprison, and use it to further the biggest affront, the WoD? Stay classy, MMP shitbags!

  66. I’m wondering whether those who say, “Well I did xyz and I survived” are overlooking their own privileges of (say) intelligence, character-strength, education, social support and the like that enabled their surviving, transcending, prevailing over recreational drug use – which might have had sketchier outcomes for people with more meager resources?

    And yes, I’m against the gummint’s WoD.

  67. I’m wondering whether those who say, “Well I did xyz and I survived” are overlooking their own privileges of (say) intelligence, character-strength, education, social support and the like that enabled their surviving, transcending, prevailing over recreational drug use capitalist society – which might have had sketchier outcomes for people with more meager resources?

    And yes, I’m against the gummint’s WoD welfare safety net.

  68. I’m back from the neighbor’s funnest party ever and slightly tipsy.

    I just realized that I’ve more in common with 70 years olds than my own age. I can be honest with them about what I am, disagree on politics, religion and most everything else, and still have so much respect for their characters and feel respected by them.

    And, JsubD, if Jackie had coke I would’ve sniffed it…

  69. I’m wondering whether those who say, “Well I did xyz and I survived” are overlooking their own privileges of (say) intelligence, character-strength, education, social support and the like that enabled their surviving, transcending, prevailing over recreational drug use – which might have had sketchier outcomes for people with more meager resources??

    So? Just because my 92 year old grandmother can’t drive, does that mean I shouldn’t be allowed to either?

  70. R C Dean, the line you omitted from my post addresses whether you should be “allowed”; namely, in it I said explicitly that I oppose the WoD.

    What I was asking the articulate and privileged drug-enthusiasts here (privileged with at least literacy and obviously more than that) whether their own experiences take sufficient account of the differences of drugs’ likely long-term effects among subjects, and accordingly whether the recreational use of drugs should be [culturally/pedagogically] universally encouraged.

    I’m asking whether Young Master Ghetto Dweller or Young Miss Rustbelt Denizen might predictably have poorer chances for rebounding from auto-intoxication as does Young Master Dubya, and is it fair to deny the difference between their prognoses.

    Your point is my point: Should your successful negotiation of freeway traffic, built as it is on an effective complex of safety-nets – clearer judgment of traffic perils, quicker reflexes, robust immune-system – also represent the margin of error that your grandmother and her neighbors can afford her to risk?

  71. anarch, I have to say that is a cogent and considered question, but your closing brings up perhaps the crux of the matter.

    Asking whether others can “afford” another’s risky behavior is not unlike asking how the government will “pay for” tax cuts.

    In the latter case, the question presumes that the government has a right to our money before we do.

    In the former case, it presumes that we have a right to make personal decisions for others before they do. Besides, risk is hardly a binary figure of merit.

  72. strat, I’m afraid I don’t know what a binary figure of merit is.

    As for the rest of your response, how I can make it clearer that I’m talking not about force but about persuasion?

    I’ve already said twice that

    I’m against the gummint’s WoD.

    And I had specified that my question concerns

    whether the recreational use of drugs should be [culturally/pedagogically] universally encouraged.

    “Encouraged” does not mean compelled. “Culturally/pedagogically” means by persuasion rather than force. Culturally/pedagogically refers precisely not to physical aggression, legal sanctions, political might, but rather to reason, rhetoric, argumentation and like appeals to an audience that retains its autonomy to make use of what it hears, or not.

    I don’t know how to make it clearer.

    Attempted analogies: A successful, skillful author who employs irony and/or knowingly and deliberately creates ungrammatical constructions would be irresponsible if he were to encourage (most) elementary-school students to abandon their efforts to craft plain and ingenuous compositions with regard to conventional language rules.

    Evel Knievel or Philippe Petit would provide a disservice if they suggested under-equipped admirers imitate their feats.

    First-world citizens with access to modern hygiene and dentistry are better insulated from the ill effects of junk-food than are subsistence-scavengers in remote slums, and it would be accordingly unkind and unfair for the former to tout candy to the latter as harmless indulgence when it will predictably cause them avoidable injury and pain without available relief.

    In the same way, I ask whether educated and sophisticated veterans of elective psychotropic self-medication shouldn’t think of cautioning more vulnerable subjects against exploits that are more likely lastingly to injure those subjects.

    “Caution,” not prevent; “caution,” not forbid; “caution,” not punish.

    In some cases for some individuals may it not be at least provisionally be indeed as simple as “Drugs are bad, mmkay?” Can that never be true and worth saying? To any group of people?

    So often on these boards we take pains sharply to distinguish disapproval from prohibition, whether it concerns behavior that many or most or virtually all find creepy, or non-violent expressions of bigotry or hatred, or any unpopular but unintrusive conduct that non-libertarians rush to suppress with the proverbial gun to the head.

    Why have I been unsuccessful in suggesting that young people already facing dim socio-economic prospects with substandard schooling may stand in greater need of lucidity to navigate their fortunes than do those who have more resources, inner and perhaps outer, to fall back on? And that it would be ethically right to make allowances for their greater needs?

  73. Perhaps if the DEA, Drug Czar (and others) had not equated the harmless Marijuana with PCP, herion, and Meth…they’d have SOME CREDIBILITY.

    The other day, that Dumb Ass Drug Czar made the most ridiculous comment. He said, people that are dying want to take marijuana to get high…and they can use any illicit drug INCLUDING METH. Anyone who has had any drug experience (and you would expect law enforcement people to know this) know that METH and COCAINE are NOT DRUGs one takes when they are in PAIN.

  74. And now that I’ve now learned what a binary figure of merit is, I’m not sure risk isn’t always one, in that some situations would seem to make increasing the agent’s chance of failure unambiguously imprudent.

    So now I’ll have to think about whether prudence and other intellectual virtues are binary figures of merit.

    Thank you for the new toy! (I take my highs where I can find them.)

  75. I’m not sure risk isn’t always one

    should have been

    I’m not sure risk always isn’t one

  76. Well, the gubment lied to me about cannabis…it’s fantastic! and it doesn’t turn me into a stumbly-wumbly belligerent drunken buffoon the way alcohol does, so I bet meth use won’t make me end up like this either.

    The government’s only approved drug is alcohol, which makes you an arrogant asshole (i won’t mention tobacco/nicotine, yeah it’s a drug, no it doesn’t do anything other than give you lung cancer) because all the illegal drugs were outlawed AFTER the north won the civil war and outlawed slavery, so Uncle Sam outlawed the drugs that minorities were using instead of drinking the white man’s alcohol.

    Read tinyurl.com/1mn

    It’s not a war on (some) drugs, it’s a war on minorities. And if they HADN’T outlawed all these naturally occurring drugs… nobody would have thrown a bunch of household chemicals into a pot and started cooking them.

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