Drug War

I'm So Ashamed of My Drinking That I Need a Drink


A study by researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management suggests public service announcements that aim to discourage binge drinking by portraying its shameful consequences may backfire, fostering resistance that leads to more drinking. The study, which involved interviews with 1,200 college students who were presented with PSAs based on Canadian ads like the one shown on the right, has not been published yet, so its findings are hard to evaluate. But according to one of the researchers, Kellogg marketing professor Nidhi Agrawal, people who already feel shame or guilt about their behavior tend to engage in "defensive processing" when confronted by messages designed to trigger those emotions, rejecting the messages and sometimes reacting against them. "Given that the shaming, consequence-centric approach is commonplace in any number of ads focused on smoking, steroid usage and sexually transmitted diseases," notes Ad Age, "the ramifications of the findings could be significant."

More broadly, a heavy-handed, over-the-top approach may invite resistance from people who don't feel shame or guilt about the targeted activity, or have not even engaged in it yet. There is some evidence, for example, that exposure to government-funded anti-drug ads makes teenagers more likely to smoke pot and less likely to accept official warnings about drugs, which makes sense as a rebellion against messages perceived as dishonest or hyperbolic.

In both cases, there is also a deeper problem: It's not clear exactly what the ads are trying to accomplish, or why. Showing a girl puking in a toilet after one drink too many does not tell heavy college drinkers anything they don't already know from personal experience. In the vast majority of cases, such experiences lead to moderation. As they mature and take on more responsibilities, people typically learn to dial back the behavior that leads to trouble. I'm not sure even a well-designed PSA campaign can do much to hasten this process, and I'm even more skeptical that it can help the minority of young drinkers whose excessive consumption continues long past college and seriously disrupts their lives. The anti-drug ads are even less promising, because they aim not to encourage moderation but to prevent experimentation. Since the vast majority of people who try illegal drugs do not experience any serious problems as a result, that goal makes little sense, and the ads offer nothing to the minority of users who already have demonstrated a tendency to excess.

NEXT: Have You "Had Sex"? Are You Sure?

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  1. I know I was always pretty resistant to people telling me what to do, when I could see through their logic. And what do you know, I was pretty much right, most of the time.

  2. Totally off-topic, but whoever it was that linked to the buttsex story ought to be shot.

    1. That was yesterday, BTW.

      1. What buttsex story, do you have a link?

    2. No, no, that was the Swedish-Chef-translator thingy…it just SOUNDS like buttsex.

    3. Pics or it didn’t happen.

      1. this story is bad…. but for those with stomach for the truly disgusting: google “one man, one jar”

        Be warned. You will be scarred for life.

  3. Good column, but it assumes that people with a prohibitionist mindset want to safeguard other people’s health, or at least change their behavior. The more I read about the history of prohibition and the War on Drugs, the more it appears to me that they simply want to enforce their morality on others, regardless of the unintended consequences and negative externalities.

    I generally like to give people the benefit of the doubt, since stating that someone is arguing in bad faith is a certain way to piss people off and shut off debate, but it’s getting very hard for me to believe that prohibitionists give a damn about anything but their own (unquestioned) personal value systems.

    1. Yep. BTW, you need to clean up your act. Now. I can help you with that.

    2. It’s worse than that, BP. They don’t just want to enforce their morality on people, they want to see people who flaunt that morality punished. Do heroin? Fuck you if you overdose, you deserved it. Get loaded and bang the fratboy? Fuck you if you get an STD, you deserved it, you whore. And so on.

      These people are scum. Don’t expect anything but the worst motivations from them.

    3. I also personally think that some of them want things prohibitted to keep themselves from being tempted by it. It’s a lot easier for some people not to give in to temptation when it becomes harder to acquire.

      1. yuo also forgot that prohibitionists said drugs made black men stare at white men, laugh at thier orders, step on thier shadows and made white women have relations with the crazed negros

      2. Bloomberg and Kessler, party of two, your table with tempting cookies and a huge salt shaker is now ready.

  4. “”defensive processing””

    Kindly fuck off, psychologists.

  5. If Lil Wayne videos aren’t enough to shame people into moderation, how could a PSA even stand a chance?

  6. “rebellion against messages perceived as dishonest or hyperbolic.”

    like smokin weed back in the 70’s and NOT going insane

    1. Isn’t Andrew Sullivan the exception that proves that rule? Just saying.

      1. Why do people keep saying “exception that proves the rule”? It doesn’t make any sense. An exception would disprove a rule.

        1. This used to bother me too. But the “rule” is not an absolute, more like a stereotype (an association built through repeated observation.) The exception is noted as a jarring or remarkable breaking of the stereotype in order to realize the near-universal applicability of the stereotype.

        2. The fact there IS an exception proves that the rule exists.

        3. What jubjub said. The fact that Sullivan’s insanity seems so extreme and out of the ordinary is evidence that most people who smoked pot in the 70s didn’t go psychotic. If they did, Sullivan would not be remarkable.

        4. Actually, an old meaning of “prove” was “test”.

          The “exception that proves the rule” is the “exception that tests the rule”.

          That’s one explanation I’ve heard, anyway.

          Another one is here.

        5. The word “prove” is used in the sense of “test”, not “demonstrate truth”. We could look it up. An exception tests the rule; it will likely hold.

    2. “…this is your bain on drugs…”

      “Dude, I’m sooooo hungry [inhaaaaaaaale]…and eggs sound soooooo good [exhaaaaaaaaaale]…”

      1. I can see my typing is going to be the “bain” of my existence. FM – “BWAIN”, of course

      2. This is your brain on drugs with a side of chorizos.

  7. Maybe they should put these signs in middle schools. I can see where a 7th grader might need to know that taking a shot out of every liquor bottle in their parents liquor cabinet will end really really badly. But, by college I think everyone kind of knows the score.

  8. I don’t get the ad. Her actions are negative?

    1. Yes they are because if you are able to puke into a toilet, you are not drunk enough.

  9. Stury teeme-a Sveys evey zee heze-a Zeey spent cuntempleteeng, furmooleteeng, zeeury sureeng ebufe-a me-a sveemming Pey treeboote-a tu zee foo ve-a luuk up tu Cume-a egeeen Yuoo my suool fuul Vhu veell knoo us boot oooor bruzeers Thuse-a vhu doon veet us ere-a theenking Noo schuul, teep tup, puoond zee feeble-a Velkeeng und telkeeng Loo doon und ifeel Fulloo me-a noo Yu Fetu Zee neex hex is oon Vuoold iferybudy joost luuk et zee huuk I tuuk it streeeght frum my breeen Remeends me-a ooff zee teeme-a I ves insune-a Und su I vrute-a it vhee I ves lueded Und futed zee leest leekely tu toorn oooot leeke-a a sqooere-a I’m seenging it fur yuoor meend und knoo I’m seenging it fur yuoor iers Joomp up und doon und leefe-a zee gruoond und knoo thet’s vhy yuoo’re-a here-a Und zeey sey doon deeggy doon doon, doon deeggy deeggy doon,strunger, lunger Leene-a up yuoor veys ooff knoo vhet I’m theenking sey it egeeen Und noo I’m veet my hume-a teem beck veet a guud seet I gledveeck leeke-a chedveeck tu tell yuoo vhet I meun Vere-a leyeeng beck oon it joost leeke-a guud sex Smuut yet psychedeleec its celled zee neex hex-um Zee munulugooe-a ooff a seengelung Les bunderes de-a sun jooun peedee pa ?? “I’m feeleen’ feene-a, lurd it’s teeme-a”?? Gu tell it oon a muoonteeen, zeen egeeen breeng a freeend Yuoo’ll meybe-a get deezzy veet a scence-a ooff ferteegu Upleeffted suool frum zee feeoo thet I’m oon nutheen’ boot lufe-a Boot lufe-a Boot lufe-a in my bluud suneec in zee furtex Thees is zee heep theeng Celled zee neex hex Deeg it

    1. Was this from yesterday’s buttsex link or the Swedish-Chef-translator link?

  10. A survey* (pick one)

    a) This study confirms ny biases, it is valid science.
    b) This study runs counter to my biases, it is flawed.
    c) These kinds of surveys are more useful than the ones used on Family Feud 50% of the time, I ignore them.

    * Finally, a use for the abomination known as threaded comments.

  11. Did anyone else think at first that that poster was an ad for Absolut?

  12. Was the night she gave the toilet a blowjob really the “best night of her life”? That’s really fucking sad.

    1. Maybe she gave somebody else a blow job and is spitting?

      1. Maybe she gave lots and lots of BJs to lots and lots of guys, while simultaneously drinking heavily, is nauseated from the drinking and is vomiting up a gallon of semen.

        1. Or maybe she’s giving a blumpkin to an invisible guy.

        2. “and is vomiting up a gallon of semen”

          What a waste.

  13. You’ll never make it as a pro without practice, practice, practice!

  14. I kept my niece from drinking heavily by the simple expedient of getting shit-faced puking drunk in front of her at the Pride Parade when she was 15. She decided that didn’t look like any kind of fun she wanted to have. But not everybody has an uncle like me, and they should probably be grateful.

    1. Generations of American dads were able to introduce their kids to the downside of drinking by the simple expedient of giving them whiskey.

      If the taste didn’t put them off, the puking and hangover would.

      Now, of course, this tried-and-true method will get your door kicked in and your kids taken away.

    2. This story makes me happy. Pride Week is basically my favorite holiday (maybe tied with Fleet Week), and you just do not hear enough heartwarming family stories about that special time of year.

      1. Yeah, that was a covert operation. Mommy and daddy would not have been thrilled had they found out we took their precious snowflake near teh gheys. It apparently rubs off or is catching or something.

        1. Coolest uncle ever. The Pride Parade is a time for drinking and for things your parents would disapprove of. In that sense, I try to keep the magic of the season alive all year long.

          1. The only bad thing about Pride Week is all the shame it brings to gay people who have never and will never own a pair of buttless chaps.

            1. Hell, SF, half the fun of Pride Week is watching that small segment of the GLBT community go all out trying to freak out the pinks and the normals. I’m not sure it helps anything, but it’s hilarious to watch.

  15. She decided that didn’t look like any kind of fun she wanted to have.

    The touching on the other hand…

  16. Sounds about right

    I actually wanna quit smoking nicotine
    mainly for financial reasons
    don’t give shit about my health
    but the whole anti-smoking mob just
    make me wanna smoke more

    The more they don’t want me to smoke
    The more I want to just to piss the kuntz off

    1. I stink.

    2. I have this exact problem right now.

  17. This actually reminded me of some good fun I have had in my life. Sure they ended on a rough note, but years or weeks later everyone tells me it was a great night of fun. There really is some truth in the poster. Makes me want to pledge to get throw up drunk at least once a year.

  18. Family Pet|3.4.10 @ 12:03PM|#

    I don’t get the ad. Her actions are negative?

    She’s not *drinking* out of that toilet.

  19. Also this ad tells me, that chick definitely puts out. A good shot I have to get chicks is to get drunk and go out to bars and meet more girls like that.

  20. But according to one of the researchers, Kellogg marketing professor Nidhi Agrawal, people who already feel shame or guilt about their behavior tend to engage in “defensive processing” when confronted by messages designed to trigger those emotions, rejecting the messages and sometimes reacting against them.

    Because this guy is a moron, he completely overlooks the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, people who don’t feel shame or guilt about their behavior also tend to react with a Go-Fuck-Yourself attitude of “defensive processing” when confronted by patronizing messages from dicks.

    1. I would imagine most of us here react with “Go Fuck Yourself” when random people try to tell them what to do.

  21. Showing an ad of people puking into a toilet won’t stop binge drinking.

    Actually being the one hugging the toilet the morning after, OTOH, does wonders for correcting one’s misimpressions of the inevitable consequences of overdrinking.

    It’s a hell of a reality check, as I can personally attest to.

  22. Matt didn’t even show up in person? No chance he’s going to get hit in the face with a chair. What a gyp.

  23. Matt didn’t even show up in person? No chance he’s going to get hit in the face with a chair. What a gyp.

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