From ‘Just Say No’ to D.A.R.E., Drug Campaigns Have Failed

President Trump touted an advertising campaign as “our most important thing” in addressing the opioid crisis. But government and academic assessments of “Just Say No”-style anti-drug messages have shown they don’t work.

President Trump is promising a “massive advertising campaign” as part of his administration’s response to the worst drug crisis in U.S. history, but past marketing efforts have shown few results, and experts say other measures could be far more effective in curbing the current epidemic, says the Associated Press. In a speech Thursday about his opioid strategy, Trumps said “our most important thing” will be “really tough, really big, really great advertising, so we get to people before they start.” But government and academic assessments of “Just Say No”-style messages have shown they don’t work.

Between 1998 and 2004 the U.S. government spent nearly $1 billion on a national campaign designed to discourage use of illegal drugs among young people, particularly marijuana. A 2008 follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health found the campaign “had no favorable effects on youths’ behavior” and may have actually prompted some to experiment with drugs, an unintended “boomerang” effect. A 2011 study of the government’s “Above the Influence” campaign suggested eighth-graders who had seen the campaign were only slightly less likely to have tried marijuana than those who had not. Other drug prevention campaigns from the 1980s and 1990s have also fared poorly under scientific review. A 2009 review of 20 studies of school-based D.A.R.E. programs showed students who underwent training were about as likely to try drugs as those who didn’t. The program, founded in the early 1980s, sent local police officers into thousands of U.S. schools to warn about the dangers of drug use.