Effectiveness of Anti-Drug Media Campaigns to Prevent/Reduce Youth Drug Abuse

Susan E. Martin, Natl Institute on Drug Abuse

In 1997 Congress adopted a law calling for an integrated paid national Media Campaign against drugs and its evaluation. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) asked NIDA to design and manage the evaluation of this Campaign. The agreement with NIDA also included funds to support a number of research grants examining various aspects of persuasive communications. This paper reviews the theoretical models, research designs, and key findings to date from both the national Media Campaign evaluation being conducted by Westat and the Annenberg School for Communications, and from several other studies exploring the effectiveness of persuasive media interventions in reducing youth drug initiation. While most of those studies are still ongoing, preliminary findings indicate that: 1) there is substantial levels of recalled exposure to Campaign anti-drug messages among parents and youth; 2) the Campaign appears to have had an effect on parents, particularly in their monitoring of and talking to their children about drugs, but little effect on youth behavior; and 3) the perceived effectiveness of anti-drug advertising varies widely across ads. These finding suggest the need for preliminary ad testing and additional research to develop more effective anti-drug messages.

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Updated 05/20/2006