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Not Even Once
March 8, 2007 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Montana Meth Project commercials. "The Meth Project is the largest advertiser in Montana, reaching 70-90 percent of teens three times a week. This is saturation-level advertising...The Montana Meth Project is a Montana-based anti-drug organization founded by billionaire Thomas Siebel." But are these ads effective in preventing teens from using meth, or are they just a symptom of the wider moral panic surrounding meth use? Pretty excellent commercials, though. More Metafilter meth missives here.
posted by KokuRyu (99 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
MethaFilter.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:42 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yikes.
I'm really bad at math, and these scared the shit outta me.
posted by Dizzy at 9:51 PM on March 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Whoa, some of these are pretty heavy. They really are. Some of them, I thought, veered a little too far into over-the-top, horror movie sort of imagery, and therefore might be a tad counterproductive, but the top 4 clips on the page, with their emphasis on family and friends and their very realistic depictions of violence, were really well done.

Is meth addiction, in fact, such a big problem in the states? I'm really out of touch...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:53 PM on March 8, 2007


It's a bigger problem than you think, but not as big of a problem as they think.
posted by danb at 9:58 PM on March 8, 2007


These commercials are what you'd get if you tried to distill Requiem for a Dream into 30 second clips.
posted by sbutler at 9:59 PM on March 8, 2007


They *look* great. And the boyfriend one is heartbreaking.

But do these commercials actually prevent kids from doing meth? I think not.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:01 PM on March 8, 2007


They should change the campaign theme to "Just twice".
posted by mildred-pitt at 10:06 PM on March 8, 2007


I agree that some of them were over-the-top. The first few, especially, had the same effect that the after-school program cliche does on me; Helen Hunt jumping out of a window was just ridiculous. But many of them were amazing. The kid getting locked out of his house gave me chills.

Whatever the reason, if they work, that's great news.
posted by juliplease at 10:12 PM on March 8, 2007


This post has really tweaked my interest.
posted by pruner at 10:17 PM on March 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


...are they just a symptom of the wider moral panic surrounding meth use?

I don't know, I think meth is worse than crack. It's cheap to make, labs are small, doesn't require smuggling stuff into the country, and highly addictive. It's a big money source for biker gangs which provide a mobile network across the country.

Someone I know pointed out, it makes you lose weight, and feel full of energy, which initially draws positive social reinforcement as everyone says, "Wow! You look great! You're so full of life!"

Of course, anything that causes permanent nerve damage and paralysis to the dealers through the baggies by contact alone is some really messed up stuff.
posted by yeloson at 10:24 PM on March 8, 2007


I did meth three or four times, years apart. I'm not saying it's a good drug, just that I know a hyperbolic overstatement when I see one.

Assuming the elevant statistics weren't just pulled from somebody's butt (as 89% of them are), is it a coincidence that meth use is high in states with lots of fat people?
posted by davy at 10:33 PM on March 8, 2007


Maybe I'm just getting old, but these seem like really pointed, good spots. No oversimplification that makes you sneer like when I was a kid ("this is your brain on drugs" bullshit).

Yeah, someone will rush into the thread to claim that she or he did loads of meth and is now president of a prestigious university/chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Spiderman whatever and being anti-drug of any sort is just soooo fascist man!
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:47 PM on March 8, 2007


Assuming the elevant statistics weren't just pulled from somebody's butt...

Maybe they were pulled from an elevant's butt? :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:01 PM on March 8, 2007


"No oversimplification that makes you sneer..."

Uh, yeah, right.

Anyway, now I know meth is for white people.
posted by davy at 11:02 PM on March 8, 2007


Sorry, but I'm inured to these adds. Actually, I laughed at a few of them. Growing up in the 80's and the hysteria then just makes it impossible for me to take these things seriously, or to think they aren't a complete waste of money.

That said, drugs can fuck up your life. They can also be really fun. But no amount of government propaganda will keep kids from experimenting. But parents demand it since they do such a shitty job of raising their kids these days.

(Among other things that bothered me about these is the assumption that people who do drugs drive beat up cars and ingest them is squalid flats. It further reinforces the notion that a poor person doing drugs is a criminal, while a rich person doing them is just indulging in recreational stonerage. Meh.)
posted by bardic at 11:05 PM on March 8, 2007


is it a coincidence that meth use is high in states with lots of fat people?

It's not simply states with fat people, it's frequently the more rural people without hope, crappy education, few prospects and opportunities, bored out their minds, little cultural or artistic freedom or stimulation. It's either find god or snort meth. It's like glue sniffing teenagers in Estonia--what else is there to do for a thrill? It's existential angst.

I do have a problem with the idea that there is no such thing as moderation or safe experimentation or deliberately careful drug use or actually retaining control of yourself. Like Reefer Madness updated--one sniff and you're ruined, lost.
posted by tula at 11:11 PM on March 8, 2007


I'd imagine it has a lot to do with income level, which links to education, health, and education like tula says.
posted by bardic at 11:13 PM on March 8, 2007


err, brain no work so good. Thanks, college drug use!
posted by bardic at 11:19 PM on March 8, 2007


Anyway, now I know meth is for white people.

I hear you davy, but it might be worth keeping in mind that these ads are made for Montana, where, if I'm not mistaken, approximately 6 non-white people live.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:19 PM on March 8, 2007


err, brain no work so good. Thanks, college drug use!

Ah! You see, bardic? You shoulda paid attention to those "your brain on drugs" spots the Mayor was talking about!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:20 PM on March 8, 2007


I think these commercials are effective in making non-meth users frightened of meth users.
posted by spiderskull at 11:22 PM on March 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Not that it'll ever happen in a country where building and staffing prisons is such a major industry, but a calm, sane discussion about these things on the part of our politicians would be appreciated. As long as anti-drug campaigns fall into the hysteria of "the fatal glass of beer" (fatal toke, fatal snort, etc.) it'll never happen. And yet another generation of kids will think, gee, if the government is telling me not to do something, I really ought to try it.
posted by bardic at 11:30 PM on March 8, 2007


If you are going to make a commercial to convince people that they are "smarter than that", it better be a smart commercial. That's why the frying pan ads were so ridiculous.

These are much better.
posted by owhydididoit at 11:36 PM on March 8, 2007


Mehth.


Nicely done, expensive looking ads. But it's not going to work.

Even 15+ years ago when I was still in high school - well before the meth plague - we knew that meth was seriously bad news.

And you either heeded that warning or you didn't. Many have died or been lost.

The thing that these drug policy people don't understand is that they are so far removed from the source of the problem, and from the brutal reality of the lives of children and young adults where these "epidemics" often first occur, or cause the most amount of alarm.

The actual source of the problem is too terrible and vast for authorities to confront and deal with - because they are the problem.

The source of the problem is that people, not just kids, are increasingly faced with an uncaring, uncivil and yet authoritarian society who no longer has their interests at heart at all, but in fact not only does it not protect them, it predates upon them either outright or through the millions of small wounds all bearaucracies eventually inflict.

Not only do they want to escape, they want to self destruct, because that's the only other choice besides being a constant ward of the state from cradle to grave... or electric chair.

You want to end the drug epidemic? It's really, really simple. No, I promise. It'll totally work. It's a no brainer. Are you sure you'd like to know? It's simple, but not easy. OK. Ready?

Here's how to end the "Drug Epidemic": Put down your fucking latte and cellphone and fucking hug your kids already, you stupid, coldhearted motherfuckers.

Turn off the fucking TV. Ban MTV outright. Turn off the computer. Go for a walk. Go get an ice cream. Go to the lake or the beach, go camping. Read a book to each other. Plant a garden. INVEST IN YOURSELF AND YOUR KIDS, NOT THE STOCKMARKET. Ask for less hours at work. Buy a less expensive car. Place less value on material goods and more value on people - and not what people own. Promote healthier body image expectations. Say something nice to someone.

You get it yet? The solution is love. Not jails. Not studies. Not scare tactics. You either get that or you don't, and if you don't get that, well, I'm sorry. Your world must be terribly bleak, lonely, and excruciatingly emotionally painful.

Time is love. Patience is love. Affection and appreciation are love. Growth is love. Sharing, teaching and learning are love.

Jails are not love. TV advertisements are not love. Prohibition and criminality is not love.

We don't have a drug epidemic, we have an apathy epidemic.
posted by loquacious at 11:36 PM on March 8, 2007 [23 favorites]


Damn, if people addicted to meth have to go through such terrible shit to get more money to pump into an underground economy I guess we should help them with drug access and recovery.

Maybe then we could get a complex and potent drug out of the hands of black marketeers.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:44 PM on March 8, 2007


Is meth addiction, in fact, such a big problem in the states? I'm really out of touch...

Depends on the state. It's a big problem here in New Mexico -- I've known people who went from being more-or-less normal to bad-teeth-scab-ridden-run-it's-a-zombie over the last few years. One guy who accidentally dropped a brick on his foot and smashed the toes, and then neglected to do anything about it until gangrene set in. He was still trying to run his bar like normal, only with a horrible swollen/rotten foot. And around the same time, the bar went from "a nice place to eat and have a drink" to "a nice place to score some fucking meth". One day it was our hangout, and about six months later it was so bad I never went back. And no matter where I go in the state, I still occasionally get stopped by scabby, twitchy, bad-teeth guys begging money for "gas" or "their medication"... anyway, there is definitely a big meth problem in the Southwest, one that has practically exploded over the last five years or so.

meth is for white people.

Meth is for white people. At least around here, the great majority of the meth users are white (and that's in a state where whites make up less than half the population). It's becoming more of a hispanic thing than it used to be, but the meth stereotype is still white.

the assumption that people who do drugs drive beat up cars and ingest them is squalid flats.

There may very well be an entire subculture of rich people who drive Bentleys and do meth in their fancy mcMansions, but I have yet to meet any of them. Meth may or may not be a white drug, but it is definitely a poor and rural drug. There's no point in pretending otherwise.

Anyway, those who know my posting history know that I'm not against responsible drug use. In fact, drugs ought to be legalized. I think most of the meth problem is due to what I like to call the Rat Park Effect: the meth addicts live in terrible environments with no sense of security, they are never going to get out of it, and they know it. Meth is cheap, so they can afford it, and when they're on it they don't notice how bad things are. Is it any surprise that people ruin their lives with it, when they didn't have much to look forward to from the start? I've seen plenty of people do fine on meth -- now and again you find out and go, "she's on meth? No way!" As far as I can tell, the common thread is a decent job, a family, non-addict friends, a business... something that gives a sense of security. Unfortunately, our society is much more interested in stamping out drugs than it is in stamping out poverty and hopelessness, so expect the problem to get much worse before it gets better.
posted by vorfeed at 11:47 PM on March 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Meth: children's medicine. All you croakers steamed by the info, don't bother.
posted by telstar at 11:59 PM on March 8, 2007


I think it's clear that meth, due to its relative cheapness, is popular with lower income people. But at the same time, having attended a private high school way back when, drugs were commonplace among many wealthy, "good" kids, and I know for a fact that they still are today. It was kind of a thrill, really, for some kids to try and score crack for the hell of it, when they had plenty of cash on hand for good ol' fashioned nose candy.

The people who make these ads have good intentions, no doubt. But after three decades of this garbage, I just wish people would realize that government propaganda is a useless waste of resources. Indeed, I dont think it's too much of a stretch to realize it actively "recruits" kids into trying drugs who are trying to form their identities in the face of the monotonous, consumer cultural of 21st century America (kind of what loquacious was getting at. But at the same time, that sort of "I need a hug" angst seems misguided as well. Yes, people turn to drugs to fill other wholes in their lives. They also do drugs because getting loaded can be fun, make you feel good about yourself, and help you get laid. Much like our national inability to have a calm, rational discussion about teenagers and sex, it has a lot to do with the fact that drugging and fucking can, under the right controlled circumstances, feel great. But to even admit this makes you either a pedophile or a dope pusher.).
posted by bardic at 12:00 AM on March 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


*and of course there are tons of consequences to drugs and sex, and education is key. But you get yelled out of many a room for even suggesting that a 17 year-old has the same drives as a 21 year-old. So, to be brief: Don't try to tell me these adverts are a form of education. They're 30 second horror flicks.
posted by bardic at 12:06 AM on March 9, 2007


When I was 11 or 12 I bought I bought a book called something like "Ann Landers Talks To Teenagers About Drugs", then made a list of drugs I wanted to try. That also explained why sniffing glue hadn't worked: I'd been using Elmer's.

I agree with bardic. I had plenty of chances for hugs, I wanted drugs instead.
posted by davy at 12:16 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't feel used.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:50 AM on March 9, 2007


Meanwhile in the UK, yet another report calls for "an enlightened attitude". Of course, enlightenment itself still seems quite a while away.
posted by daksya at 1:18 AM on March 9, 2007


Did y'all notice the four newest ads in the series (the top row, I guess) were directed by Darren Aronofsky?
posted by litlnemo at 1:52 AM on March 9, 2007


After I watched the second top clip, all I wanted to do was call my moms and tell her that I loved her.

I can't for the heart of me watch shit like that and not get a viciously hot knot in my stomach.

To me, there are just some things you do not do, no matter how low you have gone.

That's just me, I suppose.
posted by erskelyne at 2:25 AM on March 9, 2007


My son, whom I love very much, has been involved with the meth scene for several years. I have know him to be involved with other drugs, including crack, and none of them have ever had the horrific effects that meth has. Several times I have seen him after a week long binge, fully sleep deprived, paranoid and deluded, and I was frightened both of him and for him. He tries to clean up periodically but after a couple of months, he heads right back to the life. It breaks my heart every time. As for the content of the commercials, yeah it's like that. Really.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:59 AM on March 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Many have died or been lost
posted by Flashman at 3:01 AM on March 9, 2007


The solution is to market Allen's coffee flavored brandy there. That'll fix 'em up right good, ayuh.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:14 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have literally heard the "just once" story from kids. I've seen kids I thought were on the mend turn around and get into far worse trouble than they were in before.

I leave the kids behind in the program building, head down the street to the snobby wine bar, crack open a dense book and a glass of Sineann, and watch the richer people drink to excess and not have a problem. I wonder where the line goes between the guy putting away a bottle or two of wine a night and the kid who's figured out how to steal from the architect's offices to buy drugs. They've gotta be somewhere near each other, holding on to the same threads of the same rope.

Later, I walk the streets and a panhandler comes up to me. She half-way asks me for money, then stops. "Oh, it's you," she says, recognition and a smile. "How are you?" She wants to be my friend. She used to be an artist, and now she does meth. On neither side of that path could I help her out.

I am suddenly very conscious of the fact that I'm walking home with the beer I just bought. Am I hanging on to the threads? Isn't everyone?
posted by thethirdman at 3:23 AM on March 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


daksya: "Meanwhile in the UK, yet another report calls for "an enlightened attitude". Of course, enlightenment itself still seems quite a while away."

This appears to be a bit of a disappointment in some areas. For example:

"One major difficulty with current policy is that while the rhetoric is prohibitionist, much of the implementation of policy accepts that drugs will be used and seeks to reduce the amount of harm caused."

IMO, that's not a 'difficulty' of our policy, it's a strength.

It avoids getting involved in hippie-like 'drugs are OK' nonsense which would result in continuous attacks from the press, opposition politicians and grieving but ill-informed parents, recognizes that there's a heirarchy of harm and responds in a pragmatic and realistic way to the real need out there.

It's one of the very few areas where, for all it's flaws, our government gets things broadly about right.

Also:

"In the field of drug education, there has been too little evaluation for anyone to be certain of what works."

On the contrary, I think there's been a mountain of evaluation, and there's a fairly strong consensus among those who lack an axe to grind that none of it has any impact whatsoever.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:29 AM on March 9, 2007


erskelyne: "After I watched the second top clip, all I wanted to do was call my moms and tell her that I loved her.

I can't for the heart of me watch shit like that and not get a viciously hot knot in my stomach.

To me, there are just some things you do not do, no matter how low you have gone.

That's just me, I suppose.
"

Not only is it not just you, it's actually true of the vast majority of people with a drug problem.

Which is not to say that these things don't happen from time to time -- usually in the households where whiny spoiled kids with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement start hearing no for the first time ever.

This week, I've been advocating on behalf of a forty year old man who cares full-time for his sick mother -- she's suffering from Alzheimers, the son is in methadone treatment. Mom called me up because the overly officious and self-important attitudes of the drug treatment providers are screwing up both their lives and damaging the health of both of them.

But who tells their stories? What lessons can we learn from them?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:41 AM on March 9, 2007


canary meet coalmine.

the white rural west is a wasteland. no opportunity. go to west coast cities or stay and work in the minimall if you are lucky.

i think alot of the health problems associated with meth come from the 'bathtub gin' origin of the alot of the production: alot of really nasty stuff e.g. battery acid, can go into the trailerpark production. however, with the increasing government crackdown, i'm guessing the product now coming in from mexico is of higher quality.
posted by geos at 3:47 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think these commercials are effective in making non-meth users frightened of meth users.

Exactly! Probably a big reason these even get air time is because it helps portray the addicts as ruthless fallen-from-grace types that could probably do with a little prison.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:11 AM on March 9, 2007


the white rural west is a wasteland. no opportunity. go to west coast cities or stay and work in the minimall if you are lucky.

You're out of your mind.
posted by delmoi at 5:37 AM on March 9, 2007


"Laundry Mat?"
posted by purplemonkie at 5:37 AM on March 9, 2007


I'm only gonna comment in this thread just once. I'm not gonna be like that guy.

Someone needs to tell these kids that it is much better to get diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and get pharmaceutical, socially sanctioned amphetamines instead.
posted by TedW at 6:15 AM on March 9, 2007


Some drugs suck.
Some anti-drug ads suck.

There. Does that cover it?
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:17 AM on March 9, 2007


It's always weird seeing ads like this come up during ad breaks.

Ad 1: Buy this!
Ad 2: Buy this!
Ad 3: Buy this!
Ad 4: DON'T BUY THIS IT WILL KILL YOU
Ad 5: Buy this!

It's a funny old world.
posted by stammer at 6:36 AM on March 9, 2007 [7 favorites]


I recommend the movie 'Spun' for a more detailed and more
convincing take on the subject.
posted by morizky at 7:18 AM on March 9, 2007


Did y'all notice the four newest ads in the series (the top row, I guess) were directed by Darren Aronofsky?

These are actually great little films. Not just the Aronofsky ones, either; but as always, it is hard to say whether this will have any effect on the target audience.

I actually did meth once, many many years ago, in the back of a red cadillac Eldo piloted by a one-eyed guy named Fred (I shit you not!) in the middle of Amish country (PA). And that toot of meth enabled me to stay up all night drinking and carrying on; but once it wore off, I couldn't sleep, I felt horrible, and it was pure misery. That experience helped me form a deep and lasting aversion to meth; but I wonder, if I had more meth available, what would have happened.
posted by Mister_A at 7:23 AM on March 9, 2007


Best antidrug ad ever.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:25 AM on March 9, 2007


I recommend the movie 'Spun' for a more detailed and more
convincing take on the subject.


The Salton Sea is much better.
posted by mediareport at 7:36 AM on March 9, 2007


Amphetazine tells it like it is, kinda.
posted by owhydididoit at 7:46 AM on March 9, 2007


I am a RN at a large hospital in the Northwest and can spot a meth user instantly - I usually notice at least one anytime I go to a large department store. It's a bad drug but I'd rather detox a meth user than an alcoholic any day and, I'd venture to guess, the level of violence associated with alcohol is much higher. Meth, however, is climbing fast.
posted by rotifer at 7:56 AM on March 9, 2007


You get it yet? The solution is love.

Love didn't help my sister in law. Or my brother's girlfriend, a few years later. Meth is horrific shit, and I had my early 20s round of drug experiences enough to know what I'm talking about. You can do heroin for twenty years and, as long as you have as safe a supply as possible, maintain something very close to a normal life. Meth is just guaranteed to make you flat out insane and leave your life in ruins. These commercials? If they scare even a few kids away from trying it, then all to the good.
posted by jokeefe at 8:06 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I bet these commercials would look pretty cool if you were watching them while high. Knowing what small town life is like, I'd have to say the best way to spend money would be offering the kids something fun to do weekend nights. Advertising is wasted money.

When I was a high school head the last thing I was doing was sitting at home watching tv commercials.
posted by JJ86 at 8:21 AM on March 9, 2007


The Salton Sea is much better.

Thanks for that suggestion. Sounds intriguing.
posted by morizky at 8:23 AM on March 9, 2007


Meth is just guaranteed to make you flat out insane and leave your life in ruins. These commercials? If they scare even a few kids away from trying it, then all to the good.

It's alarmist bullshit like that that keeps kids using it. It's a simple fact that there are many, many, highly functioning users of it. I've known a bunch of them, and many of them quit just fine on their own, and their lives are not ruined.

The problem is that there IS a line that can be crossed, and many people don't know that they've crossed it until they are way, way over it.

The problem with most drug ad campaigns is that they fail to recognize that drugs are a hell of a lot of fun and using them a few times is harmless. So when people use drugs, have a lot of fun and see no negative consequences, they just assume that everything they've heard about them is a lie.

Unfortunately, it's not all lies, and they have to find out the hard way, over and over and over again. If anti-drug folks would just be more honest about things up front, maybe kids would be more willing to trust them.
posted by empath at 8:26 AM on March 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I also think it's incredibly hypocritical to be pumping kids full of ritalin while screaming about meth being the worst scourge in the history of man kind.

It's the same fucking drug, people!
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on March 9, 2007


Use of hyperactivity drugs soars

The use of drugs to treat hyperactivity in children has soared worldwide, say US researchers.
posted by telstar at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2007


I see these hysterical public service announcements and want to try meth just to find out if I get the urge to kick my mom in the face, or maybe rent my arse out. It's fucking obvious that anything worth kicking your mother in the face for has to be pretty good.
posted by econous at 9:07 AM on March 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's lovely to hear that there are people in this thread and elsewhere who are functioning meth users and find these tv spots insulting to their intelligence. I applaud that your adrenal makeup is such that this poison doesn't kill you. Seriously.

Speaking only as to what I've witnessed, watching a friend go through a meth addiction is about as close to watching a friend or loved one turn into a zombie in one of those "-- Of The Dead" movies. I'd say at least some of these (The top four especially, the latter tended to dip into scare tactics) capture this perfectly. If this makes any number of kids think twice, it's money well spent.

Meth is some heinous shit, and I say this as someone who is strongly for decriminalization of drugs and think pot should be legalized immediately.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:07 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's alarmist bullshit like that that keeps kids using it.

Thanks for saying it so I didn't have to. I don't even have to look at this "Montana Meth Project" to know its more cowboy bullshit, ignorant and ineffective. No, wait, it IS effective. More kids than ever will become curious about meth and wonder if they can "handle it". Grrrrrr.
posted by telstar at 9:10 AM on March 9, 2007


If this makes any number of kids think twice, it's money well spent.

Meth is some heinous shit, and I say this as someone who is strongly for decriminalization of drugs and think pot should be legalized immediately.


I don't mean to imply that it's not horrible shit. However, when kids are exposed to it, it won't be through sketchy motherfuckers who punch their moms in the face. It will be through people who seem to be having the time of their lives with no apparent negative consequences. Most people know you aren't supposed to punch your mom in the face and will not see themselves as someone who would ever do that.

If the only image projected by anti-drugs ads is misery and pain, then no one will identify with them until its too late -- "Oh, so THAT'S what that ad was all about, stupid me."
posted by empath at 9:26 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, telstar, maybe you should at least have a look before you write it off.

The "meth epidemic" may be over-stated; but is is pretty clear that many thousands of people have big problems stemming from this drug. Whether it is successful or not, this campaign is an attempt at applying the old maxim, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". I never got the feeling, watching these ads, that there was some kind of guarantee that I'd kick my mom in the face if I did meth, but the fact is, drug addicts and alcoholics do that sort of thing, every day, in every town. Are you suggesting that it would be better to avoid running any ads, or run ads that portray meth addicts as successful, or some other approach?

What is your preferred way of dealing with methamphetamine addiction? Spend thousands of dollars on residential treatment for a patient that is probably going to relapse? I think it's better to prevent them from becoming meth addicts if at all possible. Maybe this campaign will not be effective, but maybe it will help. However, you already know the answers, so please share them with us.
posted by Mister_A at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2007


Personally, I think they should just make 2 minute ads showing the disgusting labs that people make the shit in and the disgusting people making it and asking: Would you eat a cheeseburger made here? Why would you put this in your body?
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2007


I never got the feeling, watching these ads, that there was some kind of guarantee that I'd kick my mom in the face if I did meth, but the fact is, drug addicts and alcoholics do that sort of thing, every day, in every town.

Yeah, but millions of people drink alcohol every day and don't kick their mothers in the face. So what can we conclude about meth? Some people do bad things on it, but what about the rest.

Meth is a drug that's been around for a long time, and was widely used without any social stigma. It isn't new, and it's even a drug that is proscribed to children with ADD. I would imagine that home cooked meth with all kinds of impurities would be pretty bad for you, but at the same time how bad is it in it's pure form? I realize that long-term use can cause minor brain damage and Parkinson's like symptoms, but it is actually worse for you then nicotine, or alcohol?

But what you end up with is this pure demonization. It will probably work on some people (like the ones who don't hear the same thing about weed, then discover how weed isn't that bad).

The main effect of these ads is to make regular people fear meth users, causing them to support ever-increasing restrictions on users. All wars need propaganda at home, and the drug war is no different. (I don't think that's the intent of the creators, but that is, I think, the main effect)
posted by delmoi at 9:39 AM on March 9, 2007


Well, demoi: Somebody is going to have to work the farms after we kick out all the Mexicans. Might as well be tweakers. They're just a bunch of mom-punchers anyway.
posted by empath at 9:43 AM on March 9, 2007


No matter how good the ads are (and I haven't watched them; I probably will tonight at home) they can't possibly be as effective as actually spending that money on real programs, like youth centers and afterschool care and nutrition and health insurance and jobs programs and real, useful education and all the social safety nets that are so conspicuously lacking in communities that are overwhelmingly affected by drug addiction. It doesn't really matter if the drug is meth (although, okay, I do know some fairly pro-drug people who don't do meth partly because of the white-trash-trailer stigma) or coke or heroin or whatever - drugs disproportionately affect communities that are essentially without hope: without infrastructure and without, really, community. I just finished reading The Corner, which I highly recommend and vouch for, having lived in inner city Baltimore myself during those years and the author makes some really good points about the complete lack of options in drug neighborhoods. If the War on Drugs was replaced by a real War on Poverty, given the same resources, imagine how many drug destroyed small towns and neighborhoods could be saved.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:52 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meth is just guaranteed to make you flat out insane and leave your life in ruins.

No it isn't. I abused meth for several years, but here I am a decade later, not insane (well, not as a result of the drugs), with a comfortably soft middle class life with a white collar job. Some kids, kids like me when I was 13, are going to put whatever they can find into their system. Getting hysterical isn't as useful as saying "OK, I can't stop you, so just be careful with this shit otherwise you'll look like that guy who always hangs out in front of the gas station".
posted by cmonkey at 9:54 AM on March 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'll take a stab at answering your question, Mister_A: yes, spending money on treatment is exactly what I'd propose on the basis of several studies I've read (an example) that treatment dollars are effectively spent and that scare-tactic PSA prevention dollars are not.

I wonder if the reason things like useless PSAs appeal to people is because of the perceived justice of saving an innocent youth from drug addiction, versus the distasteful charity of attempting to help a pathetic junkie who might not even get better. I wouldn't argue that there is likely a law of diminishing returns for publicly spent treatment dollars, but I defy anyone to demonstrate factual support for the idea that we're anywhere near it. Whereas I have yet to see a reasonable analysis that suggests PSA dollars aren't basically money down a hole.
posted by nanojath at 9:56 AM on March 9, 2007


Your point is well-made, delmoi. The tricky thing is comparing one drug to the next is never an apples-to-apples comparison.

The two drugs I know the best are alcohol and weed, and I know that I can consume these within a certain range (I don't do pot anymore, but that's another story) without getting too messed up and without feeling too badly the next day. I also have anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that suggests that alcohol is way more addictive than marijuana—I am all for legalization of pot, by the way. These two drugs, in my experience, can be used "socially", but both have a potential for dependence and overdose (you can smoke too much pot, and it is highly unpleasant).

Psychostimulants in general, and methamphetamine in particular, are highly addictive. I can't say whether they are more or less addictive than alcohol; and probably no one can (apples to oranges). The question I have about meth is, is there a dose or range of doses that would qualify as "social use"? A corollary to that is, how broad is that range? Anecdotally, it seems that if there is a "social" dose of meth, it has a very narrow range; you are likely to go "over the line" and have some serious negative short-term effects (tweaking when you come down). All of which is my round-about way of pointing out that methamphetamine and marijuana are two vastly different drugs, and that they should be dealt with differently. The "your brain on drugs" spots of the 1980s fell down flat because they equated all drugs - coke=pot=heroin; and kids knew that was ridiculous.

It seems to me that methamphetamine is much worse for the user than pot, and it's appropriate to focus the attention of at-risk populations on the consequences that may attend methamphetamine use and abuse. There are quite a few prostitutes around where I live, and they are not turning tricks to pay for weed. I don't think we should throw users in jail for simple possession, but I would like to see fewer users getting started on meth. So while you may disagree with the tactics, I think it's a step in the right direction to say, "look at what this particular drug has done to many people", rather than "all drugs are bad, and all equally bad. PS alcohol is OK."
posted by Mister_A at 10:01 AM on March 9, 2007


nanojath - far better to spend the money on effective prevention like mygothlaundry describes. However, I don't have a problem with a campaign that points out some particulars associated with a particular drug. Time will tell whether it achieves its stated aim or not.
posted by Mister_A at 10:08 AM on March 9, 2007


Meth is just guaranteed to make you flat out insane and leave your life in ruins.

No it isn't. I abused meth for several years, but here I am a decade later, not insane (well, not as a result of the drugs), with a comfortably soft middle class life with a white collar job.


I'm glad for you. This is a sensitive issue for me because of the wreckage that meth addiction has wrought on my family-- my mother, at 73, is essentially raising her teenage grandchildren at this point-- so I'm sure that there are exceptions to every rule. I did my round of drugs too, many years ago, and my one experience with meth was at first interesting and ultimately very, very unpleasant. Mileage may vary. Etcetera.

And to say that resources should be spent in communities in order to prevent the social conditions in which drug use flourishes is a no-brainer; I'm sure we all agree on that.
posted by jokeefe at 10:19 AM on March 9, 2007


I have to chime in as yet another one-time meth abuser who currently has a happy marriage and a great career. Also, for me, walking away from the speed was virtually effortless when I finally figured out how stupid I was being.

That said, I know I got lucky. I (and quite a few of my friends) didn't have any difficulty giving it up, but I did observe quite a few other people who didn't have the same experience. It might be neurochemistry, or it might be personality issues, but it's clear that some people have a much harder time getting clean.

I know meth messes up a lot of lives, but as many folks here has said, we need to focus on the root cause of these people's suffering. Making hyperbolic claims about how meth will inevitably ruin every life it touches will only convince kids of the dishonesty of the kind people who make these ads.
posted by Fenriss at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2007


I think the ads are quite well done and while the cries of "epidemic" might be a tad over the top, meth is such a destructive drug that it's hard to see it as anything other than worthless.

The only problem I have with the media's depiction of meth use is that it seems to completely ignore a rather large group of users: the gay club/circuit community. I've spent a good deal of time in both DC and Miami and the meth use among the gay community is rampant. Most of the users I've met are young, urban, white collar and white and view meth as nothing more than a party drug. I would go so far as to say that it is the drug of choice now in the circuit party and club scene. Yet I've seen many (and heard of more) who spiraled down into self-destruction just as quickly as any Mid-west or suburban user. But nearly every anti-meth campaign has focused solely on blue-collar, rural addicts.

I see friends and people I care about using. I see them after a four-day binge, sleep-deprived and manic. I have friends in prison, homeless. Some have just disappeared completely. A few are dead. But still most of the users I know don't take it seriously. Because everyone knows that meth addicts aren't young, hip urban gays. They're poor, dirty rural types with no hope. I have actually heard more than one otherwise intelligent person claim that because they are smoking at a club instead of a dirty basement that their use is somehow different or less dangerous. And I fear that if they continue to be ignored that things are going to get worse and worse.
posted by LeeJay at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2007



1) The data is pretty clear that scare-tactic ads like this terrify adults but do not work for teens. Since most people try meth in late adolescence, these ads are unlikely to help them. Even the data collected by this project fails to show a positive effect:
in fact, there was a slight negative one.

2) You can actually compare addiction rates between drugs by looking at what proportion of regular users become addicts. Tobacco is the most addictive by this measure (~30 %), alcohol, cocaine and heroin are next (~10-20%) and marijuana is last (~3-10%). If I were to place a bet on meth, it would be in with the alcohol, cocaine and heroin group.

Addictiveness is generally heightened the *shorter* the effects of the drug-- so heroin is more addictive than methadone and crack is more addictive than powder cocaine and crack is almost certainly more addictive than meth.
Meth highs last hours while crack highs last minutes. This is why you can use meth to treat ADD (methamphetamine by prescription: Desoxyn).

However, the thing with stimulant addictions compared to depressant addictions is that the calmer addictions tend to last longer: lots of people have 20 year plus histories of alcoholism or heroin addiction, fewer have that lengthy histories of stimulant addiction because it makes you too psychotic and sleep-deprived with daily use to be sustained for most people. So, stimulant addicts tend to either quic, switch to primarily mellower drugs with occasional stimulant binges or more rarely, die.
posted by Maias at 12:00 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's just so easy to blame the inanimate object.
posted by mek at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2007


these are all done by Venables Bell & Partners, an ad agency based in San Francisco. They were very excited when they got Aronofsky to do the latest round. However they were first concerned that he wanted to do them in one shot. They turned out great though.
posted by matt_od at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2007


The data are complicated, to say the least. There is a small, statistically insignificant increase reported in the number of teens who say they have ever tried meth (from 3% to 5%), and among young adults who claim to have ever tried meth (from 12% to 15%). Those data do not support the view that this campaign was unsuccessful or counter-productive, because it is virtually impossible for the number of kids in Montana who have ever tried meth to go down, barring mass migrations or extinctions. What is almost certain is that the number who have "ever tried" meth will increase, unless the supply of meth is reduced to zero. If the number of kids who had ever used meth went down, then you could be sure there were huge methodological problems with this study.

The interesting thing to look at is the number who claim to have used within the last 30 days and the past year (see page 82 of this report); these data may tell us something about the effect of the ad campaign. Here we see a trend toward a decrease in "recent" use among kids who have reported ever using methamphetamine, but there are not enough data points for statistical significance. Note that "kids" = teens + young adults in my lingo.

It is encouraging that both teens and parents reported an increase in the frequency of conversations about meth. I also think it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of this campaign based on this report. I wish they had polled a larger sample before the campaign started, because now we can't any conclusions from trends in recent use because of the small sample size.
posted by Mister_A at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It is true that you can't tell much from this report-- but this is far from the first dire-scare anti-drug campaign and there's extensive research on the failure of previous ones. Basically, the ads that win awards and terrify adults and make them say no one would ever use after seeing that simply don't work on kids.

What did suggest counter-productiveness was the statistically significant increase in approval of frequent meth use, as I recall.

And actually "ever used" numbers vary all the time in these surveys because people's memories and willingness to be honest about use vary with the climate of disapproval of use.
posted by Maias at 1:15 PM on March 9, 2007


Naturally those numbers are going to change somewhat, because people aren't completely honest; but I'd have been very wary of a sharp dip in those numbers. There are still plenty of other problems with this study, the most glaring of which is the low "positive" sample size. I'll wager that at the outset, the researchers expected many more respondents to report methamphetamine use than actually did, and they didn't have the money to distribute and tally additional questionnaires (which gets fairly expensive, believe it or not).

Any way, after all that, I still don't have a problem with this campaign, as it seems to have some important qualitative differences over other anti-drug scare campaigns - it doesn't generalize like "your brain on drugs" and it is a little more believable than the ridiculous "OMG pot will wreck your life" brand of ads that the ONDCP and so on have been putting out lately.
posted by Mister_A at 1:38 PM on March 9, 2007


Mister_A: Those numbers absolutely could go down, because the set of kids being surveyed every year is different. Every year, one year's worth of kids becomes 'adults' and another year's crop of kids becomes old enough to be surveyed. If you're making an impact, the next generation of kids will use less, thus reducing the number of kids who have tried meth.
posted by empath at 2:08 PM on March 9, 2007


No. Look at the data. It's a 6 or 8 month spread (Aug '05 to Mar '06 if memory serves).
posted by Mister_A at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2007


"There are quite a few prostitutes around where I live, and they are not turning tricks to pay for weed."

Why not? I used to turn tricks to pay for weed, and I probably still would if I'd kept up my market value. Weed got pricey, man.

Well okay, not only weed, I also bought food, beer and shampoo, but still.
posted by davy at 4:02 PM on March 9, 2007


Well davy, I have two words of advice for you: less teeth.
posted by Mister_A at 4:20 PM on March 9, 2007


Well davy, I have two words of advice for you: less teeth.

You mean, as in: someday, somebody's gonna knock a few of 'em out if he keep coming off like a wiseass? I'd say there's some likelihood of that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:38 PM on March 9, 2007


Meth, another party drug IMO but seems to cause heavy probs for particular people. To be honest, I have a reasonably addictive personality but never had any difficulties with meth. Have hung out with some f**ked up methheads though... the most chilling meth scare story I have heard is of a "friend of a friend" who stayed awake for so long (2 week IIRC) they went blind. Permanently. Not cool. Interesting cross-cultural analysis: in Thailand meth or "yaba", as it is known (delivered in a pill), is really really big but its mainly used by the working class to keep working. Allows the poor to work crazy hours to get ahead but has also resulted in a large number of amphetamine-induced psychoses. One of my all time favourite films captures the madness of meth in the Asian world spectacularly: Cyclo. Thoroughly recommended.
posted by Onanist at 5:17 PM on March 9, 2007


I live in north-central Montana and have seen many of these commercials (and billboards). I also have two daughters, now aged 15 and 22. Although my kids were not (and are not) likely to ever try drugs, these commercials definitely got their attention. My younger child - and her friends - all have talked about them, and talked about how they don't want to wind up like the kids in the commercials, and quietly pity (and, to be honest, sometimes mock the appearance - teeth, etc) of people that they see (in the mall, walking down the street, etc) in everyday life that "look" as if they might be meth addicts.

So from my perspective, the commercials do seem to be effective. They have introduced my kids and many of their friends to what might happen if they try meth, and they are both horrified and disgusted by the possible outcomes.
posted by davidmsc at 6:24 PM on March 9, 2007


Pronouncements like 'meth is horrible' or 'meth is alright' are simplistically wrong. Objects are treated as having inherent and stable properties, likely due to artifacts of language shaped by underlying Western metaphysics. And this cognitive caricature works well for many things but not for psychoactive drugs in general.

Drug effect is mediated by

1)pharmacology - its neurochemical interactions in the body/brain
2)dosage - how much is taken
3)route - how it's taken
4)with what else - drug interactions

5)personality - traits like novelty-seeking, impulsiveness, temperament..etc
6)rationale - drug-effect expectation, drug-state utility
7)environment - socially or alone, home or foreign location

Only the first factor comes closest to being inherent and stable, but it can still vary In the case of meth, the horrible comedown is the major reason for binges, but the severity varies by route (& dose). Oral meth has a low abuse potential. In this War on Drugs environment, there's no scope for managing these drug offsets with readily effective therapies that don't perpetuate the cycle. Furthermore, the route also makes a major difference in the nature and potential for addiction (injecting, smoking & snorting much more addictive than sublingual or oral intake). And the
determinants of route depend on market offerings, economics, what your peers are doing, as well as the effect difference. The first three factors are again shaped by the milieu of prohibition, and away from milder forms.

Even the general knowledge on safer use practices is best characterized as folk mythology that is vulnerable to the usual quackery. This state of affairs can't be changed in a prohibitionist environment, without contradicting the official rhetoric. This limits the types of harm reduction measures possible. Within prohibition, the goal is to reduce use, since any use is inherently harmful. But as experts acknowledge, that's not the case. Reducing harm does not require reducing use. That false equivalence, maintained by moral rather than health concerns, is the most critical obstacle to good drug policy. Worse, the type of messages it allows aren't helpful except in a crude way, because they set themselves up for incredulous reception.
posted by daksya at 1:57 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good ads. Montana is progressive for the West, where meth is causing more problems among more agencies than ever before. Meth is now part of the distribution chain of organized crime based in other countries. Studies have shown that it addicts one faster and with more damage, causing long term depression, not to mention the suicides and toxic waste and contamination. It spreads fastest among the rural poor and the social cost from broken families and screwed up fetuses will be enormous in poor counties. The libertarian arguments here against informing people about meth are curiously sheltered and in denial at the time, but fallacious and chickenshit as usual. (Then again, I watched them all vote for Reagan when liberals were still trying to legalize pot).
posted by Brian B. at 8:10 AM on March 10, 2007


I'm all for informing people about meth; I'm against lying to people about it. Lying to them just makes them distrust anything you say. And portraying meth as a demonic force that creeps into your mind and makes you a zombie if you even consider thinking about trying it one time is a lie; when kids figure that out, they may decide meth isn't such a big deal... and get addicted.
posted by Justinian at 11:05 AM on March 10, 2007


I'm all for informing people about meth; I'm against lying to people about it. Lying to them just makes them distrust anything you say. And portraying meth as a demonic force that creeps into your mind and makes you a zombie if you even consider thinking about trying it one time is a lie; when kids figure that out, they may decide meth isn't such a big deal... and get addicted.

Statistically, 100% of everyone who was addicted tried it once, and even one time is damaging to your health and a poisoning or infection risk. Furthermore, the first try is the day you meet your drug supplier, and he's not interested in one time only. Nevermind the subjective emotional experience, it's not a sound argument to defend the first time. Addictive drugs are a form of economic warfare and exploitation, and one time for everyone is all they ask for.
posted by Brian B. at 11:23 AM on March 10, 2007


But it's all okay when your drug supplier for methamphetamine is Abbot Labs, Brian B.? I assure you he isn't interested in one time only, either...

This is reefer madness propaganda.
posted by Justinian at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2007


But it's all okay when your drug supplier for methamphetamine is Abbot Labs, Brian B.? I assure you he isn't interested in one time only, either...

Yes, it is okay.

This is reefer madness propaganda.

Get some help ASAP.
posted by Brian B. at 2:13 PM on March 10, 2007


"We don't have a drug epidemic, we have an apathy epidemic."

kudos for loquacious for stating the real problem / cause for drug addictaion and abuse.

Drugs are used as an escape.... you provide their reality with treasured memories of spending time with them - building the bonds of a family ...then why would children need to escape? Invest in your children folks - the rewards are endless.
posted by Prunedish at 3:17 PM on March 10, 2007


Prunedish, I can't disagree that involved and loving family are crucial in keeping people safe and out of harm's way. Would that that were all it took.

But I have an amazing, loving, intelligent, supportive, fun family, a good education, and a charmed life. I've expirimented with, investigated, and abused a variety of legal and illegal drugs. This problem can't be "cared" away. There's more to it than that.
posted by juliplease at 4:30 PM on March 10, 2007


and clearly, this drug use has affected my spelling. apologies. s/b "experimented".
posted by juliplease at 4:36 PM on March 10, 2007



Yeah and we certainly don't have an apathy problem when it comes to government spending on drugs: $40 billion a year (much more than the first Gulf War cost, every year and never been cut, even post 9/11).

And, as another former addict (cocaine and heroin) from a good family, I can tell you that while social support is often essential to recovery, it is not sufficient.

Addiction is a complex problem that cannot be reduced to simplistic slogans; trying to prevent use doesn't begin to do anything about addiction or overdose. Because while it's true that if an addict never tries a particular drug, he or she won't get addicted to it, it's also true that there's a population at great risk for a variety of addictions who will tend to find *something* to use to mess up their lives and the existence of this group is not affected by ad campaigns (though they might shift them from one drug to another, as will general trends).

Having more healthy families almost certainly would reduce the number of people in this group, but would not eliminate it-- and simply shifting from one drug scare to another doesn't help much either.
posted by Maias at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2007


"And portraying meth as a demonic force that creeps into your mind and makes you a zombie if you even consider thinking about trying it one time is a lie; when kids figure that out, they may decide meth isn't such a big deal... and get addicted."

Bingo. Meth is a basically crappy drug, and kids should be told that, but lying to them won't do them any good.

And what's that about some yankee psychos threatening to knock out my teeth? I know, I hardly consider those serious threats -- considering the sources even if those were actual threats delivered in person if I didn't laugh in your faces it'd be from politeness -- it's just funny that morons even think of addressing the issue of Dreaded Meth by doing violence to people who tell them they're off base. Way to save Society, guys.
posted by davy at 8:08 PM on March 16, 2007


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