MetaFilter is my anti-drug.
April 16, 2013 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Popular Science explores the psychology behind anti-drug PSA's and whether they help keep kids off drugs...

or just make kids more curious about them. (Hint: They're about as successful as the War on Drugs).
Part of Popular Science's Drug Week.
posted by ApathyGirl (88 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, I've never really wanted to do drugs, but the "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" campaign kind of made me want to.

Just keep your Anti-Hugs campaign away from MeTa. Everyone needs one.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:27 PM on April 16, 2013


Most of the Brain on Drugs ads were pretty bad.

NOT THIS ONE.
posted by effugas at 6:35 PM on April 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


My anti-drug is alcohol.
posted by mhum at 6:45 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been of the personal opinion that the strident anti-pot messages have been particularly damaging to the goal of keeping kids away from dangerous stuff. Pot is not dangerous. It just isn't. But adults insist that it is, and scream bloody murder about it, all red-faced with their wattles shaking.

Then, when the kids actually try it, they figure out that, yet again, the adults are lying to them, as they so frequently do. So then they ignore the screaming about drugs that are actually dangerous.

I'm not sure if this is still common parlance, but in my youth, pot was called "a gateway drug". And I think they're right about that, but not for the reasons they believe. It's not that pot automatically leads to heroin, it's that lying about pot means that kids don't trust you about heroin.

Basing your anti-drug campaign around falsehoods is about as counter-productive a strategy as one could possibly come up with.
posted by Malor at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2013 [105 favorites]


The last sentence needs some parenthesis to parse. Or some good drugs.

"...their children were more less likely to think drug use wasn’t a big deal."
posted by surplus at 6:48 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]




I have no idea whether they actually work or not, but much to my wife's dismay, I have successfully taught my daughter to say 'I learned it by watching you!' about half the time she is asked where she learned to do something.

This brings smiles to the faces of a certain generational cohort and puzzled frowns from everyone else including most of her preschool teachers.
posted by madajb at 6:55 PM on April 16, 2013 [40 favorites]


I often wonder how many people in the target audience actually get the line in Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brenda Kahn from 1990 -- Egg On Drugs

Billy Joel thinks he's political
Cause he can memorize encyclopedias
And Phil Collins has a homeless video
Now we all feel gratified

This is an egg
And this is drugs
And this is an egg on drugs

posted by flarbuse at 7:02 PM on April 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


The lying about MDMA probably doesn't help either. Its use among young people is huge. If you make the mistake of listing something reasonably harmless alongside heroin and cocaine, it's not a huge leap for people to wonder if anything else on that schedule isn't also fun and harmless.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:06 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, for me it wasn't that they made me curious about it, it was that when I actually tried LSD and then especially MDMA, it was so different from what I had been led to believe that I just assumed all of it was lies.
posted by empath at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am the grey sweater.

The hyper observant will see me randomly punch some kid in the last frames. Because I was a monster.
posted by absalom at 7:13 PM on April 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


1adam12: "The lying about MDMA probably doesn't help either. Its use among young people is huge. If you make the mistake of listing something reasonably harmless alongside heroin and cocaine, it's not a huge leap for people to wonder if anything else on that schedule isn't also fun and harmless."

Absolutely. I've been making that argument for years regarding the 'gateway drug' label given to pot. Suggesting that pot is anywhere close to the same substance as harder drugs is by far the real danger.
posted by mannequito at 7:15 PM on April 16, 2013


"I've been of the personal opinion that the strident anti-pot messages have been particularly damaging to the goal of keeping kids away from dangerous stuff. Pot is not dangerous. It just isn't. But adults insist that it is, and scream bloody murder about it, all red-faced with their wattles shaking.

Then, when the kids actually try it, they figure out that, yet again, the adults are lying to them, as they so frequently do. So then they ignore the screaming about drugs that are actually dangerous.
"

Heh. That's pretty much the exact "anti-drug" speech my mom gave me, that the anti-pot stuff was bullshit and that by getting it all lumped together, it meant that her and lot of her cohort tried harder drugs than they would have otherwise. I got the message that heroin can kill you, meth and downers were dangerous, but pot was pretty harmless and that if anything was actually likely to kill you, it was alcohol.
posted by klangklangston at 7:26 PM on April 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Reclassifying pot as a vegetable is my anti-drug.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Drug education definitely made me and all my friends curious about drugs.

However, that anti-smoking PSA from the 90s with the woman smoking through her tracheotomy? Literally any time I ever thought about accepting a smoke from a friend or otherwise trying tobacco, I'd see her face in my mind and turn them down. That woman died recently and I heard it on the radio and realized she'd singlehandedly prevented me from ever starting to smoke. I wish I'd known she was still alive; I'd have written her a letter telling her what an impact she had on me. That PSA absolutely replaced any images of "cool" associated with smoking tobacco in my mind with a mental picture of crippling, tragic addiction.
posted by town of cats at 7:31 PM on April 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thanks for posting this - it's timely for me, since I have to do a public safety campaign for class. It being group project #4 of the semester, I'm burnt out on ideas and I came up with an utterly ridiculous one regarding 'safer partying'. I'll be following these PopSci articles for direction towards people who have actually studied PSAs and so on.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:56 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


One evening at dinner, when my son was in (grade school? jr. high?), he was describing how the D.A.R.E. folks had been at school that day talking to the kids about the dangers of drugs. I asked him what D.A.R.E. stood for, and without missing a beat he said, "Drugs Are Really Expensive". His mom and I had a good laugh about that.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:09 PM on April 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Just say no to just say no and maintain zero tolerance for zero tolerance.

Its use among young people is huge.

Its use as a social drug is not necessarily its highest and best use. Count me down for Medical MDMA in an ideal world. And ibogaine, too, for that matter.
posted by y2karl at 8:11 PM on April 16, 2013


The cartoon where Alf and Michaelangelo kept berating that one kid about drugs actually had an effect on me, I'll admit it. I didn't want Alf to be mad at me.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:18 PM on April 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


While not an official 'anti-drug' PSA (because we all know tobacco is a harmless past time for adults), as a kid, the "Kissing a Smoker is Like Licking and Ashtray" poster (complete with mouth open, extended tongue covered in stubbed out cigarette butts) and the PSA with the kid at the party, seeing a cute girl, getting excited, then seeing her smoking, and losing all interest, those worked on me. When I was single, friends would get a pick of pointing out a cute girl to me, and I would think, hey, she's cute, until I saw her smoking, and I'd end up saying 'but she smokes' to the delight of my friends (who also remembered the PSA).

The thing is, I grew up in a family of smokers. Everyone smoked. Mother, father, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparents, everyone. Those PSAs got to me at the just the right age, and here I am, nearly three decades later, still thinking that smoking is one of the most filthy things ever invented.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:39 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I totally agree that adults over dramatizing and outright lying about the effects of drugs and particularly marijuana effectively discredits everything else that is largely true about the dangers of harder drugs.

When you're a kid you're prescribed this incredibly plain, dull model of how you are to conduct your life. You can't drink before you're 21 and even then never too much or you will die in a horrible crash due to drunk driving (and probably kill your little sister for good measure). You can't have sex before marriage or you will become a disease ridden pregnant slut whose boyfriend will promptly leave them. You so much go to a club where people might be using ecstasy... well you get the idea.

I feel like it all boils down to we don't trust teenagers to make their own fully informed decisions about what they are going to do with their bodies. It's all or nothing. And of course no one lives their life like that we all assume some risk. And when you make something out to be high risk that ends up being very low risk, then everything that is purported to be high risk just seems like a propaganda designed to control your life. Which of course on some level it is, which is the problem. Kids aren't stupid, they know when they are being manipulated and until they are given accurate unbiased information about the actual risks of various drugs they will never be in a position to make an information decision about what they put in their bodies and what level of risk they are willing to accept.
posted by whoaali at 8:43 PM on April 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Trivia: Space Coyote is referring to Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. It was permanently pulled from television and home video because one of its many guest characters was used without permission. That character was Garfield.

Ironically, we have comic strip hack Jim Davis to thank for protecting children from that travesty.
posted by BiggerJ at 8:45 PM on April 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Those PSAs got to me at the just the right age, and here I am, nearly three decades later, still thinking that smoking is one of the most filthy things ever invented.

Yeah, I feel like the anti-tobacco PSAs and education really worked on my generation too (who are now in their early 20s). When I went to college, I was genuinely surprised to see people in my age group smoking. There weren't very many, but I thought surely we had all been appropriately convinced of the terrible danger of smoking? And that tobacco companies were evil?

The anti-drug PSAs...not so much with the working what with demonizing pot so much. Though I will say that I think most of my peers have been sufficiently scared away from the likes of PCP thanks to the so-terrible-they-should-be-urban-legends stories that are not actually urban legends at all. There may be plenty of people who take PCP and don't kill their friends and eat them, but you don't really hear about them as much, and do you really want to risk being the person who kills their friends and eats them in PCP-induced psychosis? Probably not.
posted by yasaman at 8:56 PM on April 16, 2013


...but what if your friends are delicious?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


They didn't make me want to do drugs but I have really high cholesterol.
posted by katyggls at 9:30 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


To my knowledge, programs such as DARE have been shown in fairly well-designed randomized trials to be utterly useless at best and and iatrogenic (i.e., harmful) at worse. As have many programs of a similar vein (i.e., let's scare the crap out of you; stuffy conservative adults misunderstanding what it's like to be a kid and what motivates teenagers) but focused on conduct issues (see reviews: 1, 2).

These ads seem somewhat like the classic, paradoxical command to not to think about a [pink/white] elephant. Hey, drugs! Focus on drugs! But... don't focus on drugs! Think about drugs. But don't think about drugs.
posted by Keter at 9:41 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bill Hicks - This Is Your Brain on Drugs.

Bill Hicks - Positive Drug Story

Note. I just took a big rip off a kif bowl before posting this comment.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:47 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am drug-free. I have only drunk booze. I have had no interest in doing anything harder. What kept me off drugs? Finding out the consequences of most of them. Most drugs have really bad issues if you get addicted to them, which they're designed to do. I did not want to suffer those consequences.

I don't really get why all of the 80's drug ads didn't really get into that so much.

Smoking: Everyone can smell that you did it. Smell is everywhere. Frequently gives you cancer. Even inhaling someone else's smoke can give you cancer.
Alcohol: fine in moderation, but if addiction runs in your family, DON'T EVEN GIVE IT A TRY.
Meth: just look at a picture of a meth head.
X: apparently monkeys with your serotonin levels permanently even after just one try. (That particularly scared the shit out of me when I heard it.)

Yeah, that kept me sober. Almost everything except pot can and usually does have whopping consequences if you really like the drug, and that's not even getting into the joys of habituation. So that worked with me. Maybe I'm far more sensible than most teenagers are, but I didn't want to end up a lifelong addict, so I never tried anything. Voila.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:56 PM on April 16, 2013


The title of this thread is actually sort of honest in my case. I'm recovering from alcohol abuse, and various Internet resources - communities, etc. - really help me avoid engaging in destructive behaviors. It's sometimes hard to justify to those around me why I'm so invested in the Internet, but it keeps me from being much worse.
posted by LukeLockhart at 10:25 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


French Toast.
posted by spitbull at 12:02 AM on April 17, 2013


Marijuana is my anti-drug.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:12 AM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just remember: never mix drugs and anti-drugs. Friends don't let friends absorb massive doses of gamma radiation.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:23 AM on April 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


which they're designed to do

This is incorrect.
posted by flaterik at 12:33 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


MDMA is not benign. It's not heroin or cocaine, but it's not pot either.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:50 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Most of the Brain on Drugs ads were pretty bad. NOT THIS ONE."

That's my friend Lauri in that PSA!

(And yeah, that one's very popular. If that's the right word.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:01 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the main outcome, if not the purpose of anti-drug PSAs is to make people who don't take drugs fear and hate drug users in order to boost support for the war on drugs itself.
posted by delmoi at 2:04 AM on April 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Most drugs have really bad issues if you get addicted to them, which they're designed to do.
Most of the addictive drugs were discovered in nature, Opioids, Cocaine, Nicotine. Drugs that were actually scientifically designed as drugs like LSD or Ecstasy. I suppose amphetamines were designed and addictive, but they were not designed to be addictive.
Alcohol: fine in moderation, but if addiction runs in your family, DON'T EVEN GIVE IT A TRY.
Alcohol is by far one of the most damaging drugs in terms of social costs. Alcohol really does make people violent, it causes tons of drunk driving death and people die from alcohol poisoning all the time.
posted by delmoi at 2:20 AM on April 17, 2013


If you have to try one drug, and only one, try coffee. Or maybe tea.

Most drugs are fun. Many are so fun it is hard to stop doing them. Caffeine is one of the few that is both fun and harmless. Stop using it a few hours (or in my case minutes) before bedtime and you will be fine. Posted at almost 3am.
posted by poe at 2:49 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


MDMA is not benign. It's not heroin or cocaine, but it's not pot either.

Safer than horse-riding.
posted by empath at 3:03 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stop using it a few hours (or in my case minutes) before bedtime and you will be fine.

Not so.
posted by empath at 3:05 AM on April 17, 2013


MDMA is not benign. It's not heroin or cocaine, but it's not pot either.

If it was benign, it wouldn't be any fun. MDMA is an amphetamine that targets serotonin. Used correctly, I'm sure it's fine. But the problem with psychoactive drugs is that they are really hard for a lot of people to use correctly.

Safer than horse riding is ridiculous. So is alcohol and tobacco by that measure. It is the long term effects that are harmful. Horse riding, like the risk of lightning death, isn't cumulative. It would be pretty hard to horse-ride to death. But you can take enough MDMA to kill yourself. And taking MDMA regularly very often leads to unhappiness.

And the problem with these "harmless" drugs isn't just the effects of the high. It's also the effects of depending on substances to mask reality. Potheads might not end up statistically dumber, but have you ever tried to explain something to someone who is baked? It's like trying to explain physics to the Wal*Mart smiley face.

Trying to talk to potheads and drunks are my anti-drug.
posted by gjc at 3:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am drug-free. I have only drunk booze. I have had no interest in doing anything harder.

By "harder", do you mean "more illegal" or "more harmful"? If the second, I've never done anything harder than booze either -- just pot, speed, LSD, shrooms, and ecstasy.

Well, OK, maybe not quite true. I have tried tobacco, which is more addictive than booze, but slightly less harmful physically and socially. Fortunately I managed to stop before I became a regular user.
posted by pont at 3:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


(And yeah, that one's very popular. If that's the right word.)

The hot psycho effect. As an ad it's moronic.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:33 AM on April 17, 2013


My kids' school doesn't bother. They turned it into peace & bullying awareness week.
posted by tilde at 3:34 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Potheads might not end up statistically dumber, but have you ever tried to explain something to someone who is baked?
Have you ever tried to explain something to someone who was extremely drunk?
posted by delmoi at 3:39 AM on April 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I feel like it all boils down to we don't trust teenagers to make their own fully informed decisions about what they are going to do with their bodies.

With good reason, for crying out loud!

I'm a boomer who—back in the day—did more than my share of illegal drugs. Although my wild days are (mostly) behind me, I have wonderful memories and not a single regret. I not only agree with the above comments about the multiple problems associated with anti-drug education, I'm practically an advocate for drug use—assuming the user will observe all relevant "don't be stupid" rules.

Unfortunately, teenagers are notoriously bad when it comes to not being stupid. This doesn't justify the overly dramatic and deceitful tactics used in anti-drug campaigns, of course. But, trusting teenagers to make good decisions isn't an answer, either.

When my kids were in high school in nice, suburban Oak Park, heroin was a thing. Meth, not so much—partly because it was considered a small town drug, partly because it was "too dangerous".

Now, there's an example of the teenage brain on drugs.
posted by she's not there at 3:39 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be pretty hard to horse-ride to death. But you can take enough MDMA to kill yourself. And taking MDMA regularly very often leads to unhappiness.

And the problem with these "harmless" drugs isn't just the effects of the high. It's also the effects of depending on substances to mask reality.


More people die from horse-riding than from taking MDMA. That's a fact, so yes, people can and do horse-ride to death.

MDMA doesn't mask reality, btw. You see and perceive everything perfectly well. You just feel better about it. Emotions don't exist outside of your mind, you know.
posted by empath at 3:40 AM on April 17, 2013


Sadly, two generations of extreme gullibility was my anti-drug. My mother heard about how drugs would make you jump off the roof, thinking you could fly, and I was pretty sure, since my mother was generally right on most matters, that this was true, so I stayed well clear of the stuff.

The result of this was two-fold. First, I ended up holding the highest available civilian security clearance in our family business because, as my father complained, "I can't believe I've got seventy-five employees in this place and the only one who's never smoked reefer is my goddamn son!" This meant that I ended up doing a lot of strange government on-site work, and my security clearance for DEA contracts even got me their weirdest form of authorization, in which I was deputized in a sort of adjunct narc position. Had to be pee-tested twice a month with an agent standing behind me in the stall, but I wasn't pee-shy and this seemed sort of exotic and thrilling at the time.

The second result was that my teenage drug experimentation got pushed into my late thirties, and that is really an unflattering place in one's personal history to suddenly become a floppy, unreliable weirdo. I had the world's shortest pill habit, when someone gave me a bottle of valium and I had a week of blissfully not giving a shit about anything before passing out dramatically in a mall at Christmas. I was cured when I ran out of pills, largely because it wasn't really that fun and I'm just not ambitious enough to go out and get more.

When I finally tried pot, I didn't get high at all—just coughed a lot and got a headache—but since I was seeing a Californian industry exec at the time, a joint was handed to me every time we'd watch TV, which meant, at least for me, that I saw the first half of a number of movies and TV shows and woke up on the couch. I want to embrace the whole rave-y Terrence McKenna-ish high holy brotherhood of the divine plant drug thing and celebrate the great coming together of the cosmic soul and all, but drugs pretty much just make me tired, which is the same reason I find alcohol pointless, because I've got a career that can do that and it doesn't require a lighter.

I did, though, have my PSA moment.

When I was trying to start my own business and was dead broke, I'd been hired to be the MC of a slave auction-themed bukkake party in a suburban firehouse bingo hall, wearing a sort of Colonel Sanders outfit, complete with suspenders and a straw hat and a outrageous drawl I purloined directly from a talking cartoon rooster, and I'll spare people the long story, but at the end of the night, when I'd been witness to the most insane gonzo performance of group depravity in my recent memory and was in a bit of a mood, a joint was passed around my way and I thought, hell, just a puff, you know, to take the edge off.

Stripped off the suspenders, the straw hat, and the talking cartoon rooster, climbed into my four door economy sedan to drive five miles home and—

Why are the streetlights doing that?

Behind me, even as slow as I was going, the streetlights were bobbing along, it seemed, just outside of my peripheral vision, massing and clumping into groups, and they were following me.

THEY'RE FOLLOWING ME!

I took the back way, the slow, low country road that went straight through the prison, which turned out not to be the best idea because, about halfway through, I became convinced that was driving in the prison itself, what with all the barbed wire and watchtowers all along the way. I may have shrieked a little, and turned down the stereo to avoid alerting the guards, but I was able to escape somehow.

It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't just pot in that joint, and I loudly cursed the nature people in Anne Arundel county, then came up with a plan.

I'll just drive home on the shoulder of this road, very, very slowly.

This is, of course, not as good a plan as just pulling over and sleeping it off, but the world was slowly spinning and I was feeling smart and energetic and I couldn't keep from biting my lip because of how smart and energetic I was, so I drove home, at one mile per hour, on the "shoulder."

This, also was a bit of a problem in that there is not a shoulder on that road, but rather an endless procession of well-kept front lawns, which I drove slowly through, knocking down mailboxes and cast concrete Virgin Mary statues the whole way while keeping my focus by blaring Basement Jaxx at a volume slightly less than that of the siren on a fire truck.

I do not remember getting home, or cleaning myself up and going to bed, and when I woke, I was surprised to see that my car was not there. I puzzled about it, then got on my bike and made circles throughout the town until, with a little spark of memory fizzing into being, I realized that I'd left my car parked in front of the trailer over by the racetrack where my high school girlfriend had lived.

"This is your car?" asked a bewildered and somewhat irritated man with neck tattoos like dark lesions, peering out from behind the screen door as I unlocked my car.

"Yeah, sorry, I did some PCP last night at a sex party at a firehouse and lost my mind."

"Ain't that always the way?"

"You're tellin' me," I said, with a bit of the cartoon rooster in me. "Sorry, though."

"No prob."

And this, children, is why you shouldn't do drugs.
posted by sonascope at 3:43 AM on April 17, 2013 [63 favorites]


Your 'normal' perception of reality is distorted in innumerable ways by hormones and neurotransmitters and the limits of your senses. Intentionally chemically distorting it in a way that you prefer doesn't make it better or worse, necessarily, only different.

There is nothing that makes Prozac medicine and MDMA a drug, or ritalin a medicine and crystal meth a drug, except that some make people productive and predictable and the others don't.
posted by empath at 3:47 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the anti-tobacco ads caught on more than the anti-drugs ads just because there was so much more truth to the former than there was to the latter, not just in the ads themselves, but also in the everyday experiences of children and teenagers growing up around people who smoked, which at the point the ads first started to air, was basically everybody. You did not only see the woman smoking through a hole in her neck on telly, but you knew your aunt who did the same, or you had a family member dying of lung cancer.

With the drugs ads, even if they did show the horrible lives of heroin junkies, how many people did you know in real life who did heroin?
posted by MartinWisse at 4:08 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My dad works in harm resistance, so I was raised under the three golden rules: 1) Don't do heroin 2) Don't do crack cocaine 3) Never inject.

I suspect now you could now add another rule for meth or something, but for me, having a parent who trusted me enough to be honest about what was dangerous and what wasn't made it pretty easy for me to make smart decisions. I smoked weed, I ate mushrooms, I still do in moderation.

The only bad trip I ever had was off a legal high (seriously, if you're a teenager getting ready to smoke salvia divinatorum, don't let your friend convince you that it's going to be just like pot) and when I told my dad about it later, he just shook his head pityingly and told me that the only reason shit stays legal is because no one in their right mind would want to take it anyway. Wisdom for the ages.
posted by emperor.seamus at 4:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


"When I was trying to start my own business and was dead broke, I'd been hired to be the MC of a slave auction-themed bukkake party in a suburban firehouse bingo hall, wearing a sort of Colonel Sanders outfit, complete with suspenders and a straw hat and a outrageous drawl I purloined directly from a talking cartoon rooster, and I'll spare people the long story, but at the end of the night, when I'd been witness to the most insane gonzo performance of group depravity in my recent memory and was in a bit of a mood..."

...I, wha, what?

I have no idea how to process this as a thing that could concievably happen, and no doubt did because this is sonascope, but I just felt this should be highlighted and appreciated for what it is, whatever that is.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:15 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel like it all boils down to we don't trust teenagers to make their own fully informed decisions about what they are going to do with their bodies.

Sort of.
Except people are heavily influenced by their environment.
And teenagers especially, because they have poor impulse control. That's not badmouthing teenagers - the part of their brain that regulates impulses control is underdeveloped compared to the part of the brain that acts on impulses. Forgive me for forgetting the terms, or not being able to dig up some really interesting figures from a paper I was just reading last month.

I think it's our collective responsibility to figure out what works to build healthy, safe environments and encourage healthy, safe behavior*.

Now. Would I agree with that as a teenager? No. I snuck in to places and did drugs and drank myself silly and had reckless adventures and shit like that, and it was good for me, maybe, except maybe it coulda worked out otherwise.

But still.

*Some PSAs work as pieces of mass communication designed to elicit behavior change. Some do not. A lot of the things that people pointed out on here - when PSAs seem wrong, when they don't present a relevant reality - they don't work. Because nobody takes them seriously.
posted by entropone at 5:18 AM on April 17, 2013


I wonder if the growth in the use of illegal drugs parallels the growth in the use of legal -prescribed or OTC- drugs. I suspect it does, and that big pharma ought to take its share of the blame (and punishment, yeah!) for pushing drugs. We are being bombarded with messages telling us that certain substances will make us feel better, and then we're told that we should only accept those messages from corporate-sanctioned messengers. Hah! So illegal drug use can be constructed as an act of resistance against the pharma-industrial-complex. Grow your own, baby! Or maybe it's just that life in post-industrial times has become so alienating, so painful, that we can't make it through a day without altering our consciousnesses- whether it's with prozac or pot.
posted by mareli at 5:46 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010, rising 3.6 percent from 2009, federal officials reported Tuesday. There were 38,329 drug overdose deaths in 2010. Prescription drugs were involved in more than half of all overdoses, with 22,134 deaths from them, up 6 percent from 2009. Of those deaths, opioids, like oxycodone and morphine, were involved in an overwhelming majority, with 16,651 deaths in 2010, up 7 percent from 2009. Deaths from prescription drug overdoses quadrupled from 1999 to 2010."

We teach kids that oooh scary marijuana monster will carry them off to junkie-land if they're in the same room as a joint but not the actual dangers of the pills mommy or daddy got for after the root canal - and we're not teaching mommy and daddy about those dangers, either. We are dumb.
posted by rtha at 6:29 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The anti-drug stuff didn't work on me.

Being a goody-two-shoes, straight-laced Catholic girl with a hyperdrive metabolism and a monomaniacal desire to get the hell out of town and let nothing in the world stop me did. We did have one day in my seventh grade class when a cop came to lecture us on drug use and used a presentation technique that seemed extraordinarily angry, and that also scared me ("okay, okay, if I promise never to use drugs will you stop shouting at me, please?")

I didn't even drink until my senior year in college; I did luck out by having friends who respected that. The crowd I ran with would throw huge parties in one of their dorm rooms, but they always set up two separate bars, one for the people who were drinking and a separate one with a full stock of juices and water and soda for me and the other girl who didn't drink. They kept the two separate we wouldn't be fighting for the mixers with everyone else.

It's also good that I didn't even dare to venture a toe into controlled substances of any kind, because I learned that alcohol and aphtmetamine-type substances hit me hard (I get pretty tipsy after only a drink and a half, and I once accidentally took more Sudafed than I should have and ended up pacing in my kitchen at 3 am, heart racing, and convinced that I was about to have a heart attack). The few times I've tried pot, though, it's had absolutely no effect on me, so that's more a matter of "apparently for me there's no point in purchasing this".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on April 17, 2013


When I went to college there was a little controversy because there was an easily available document that listed most available recreational drugs (legal or illegal), along with dosages, effects, side effects, and long term side effects. All of this is information that can be obtained from a well-stocked medical library, but some people thought having it all laid out like that was facilitating drug use. Personally, I found leafing through the side effects and long term side effects was a better deterrent than any nagging cartoon.

That also left me with the awful final exam run, when I was notably ill and wound up taking large amounts of antihistamine and caffeine to get through. I saw people who'd finished their exams partying and thought bitterly, "I am more drug-altered than any of those people and I am not enjoying it at all!"
posted by Karmakaze at 6:51 AM on April 17, 2013


A recent study found that when parents admit to their drug use to their children, even as part of an anti-drug discussion, their children were more less likely to think drug use wasn’t a big deal.

Reading this sentence over and over again can induce feelings of disorientation and psychosis.
posted by bozeman's simplex at 6:56 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I must be a specially fragile snowflake, because I found PSAs terrifying as a child. I'd seen an egg frying before, but that egg was sinister. The meth ads from a few years ago? The black and white woman who keeps rubbing things on her teeth, slamming doors and yelling at people? I would cover my ears with my hands and bury my head in the carpet and just wait, not breathing, until it was over.

I don't know if they deterred me from doing drugs as much as they deterred me from people who/did do them, like they were all violent and unpredictable and falling apart from the inside out.
posted by koucha at 6:58 AM on April 17, 2013


MC of a slave auction-themed bukkake party in a suburban firehouse bingo hall

I think I may have actually seen this online.
posted by Damienmce at 7:04 AM on April 17, 2013


> "Most of the Brain on Drugs ads were pretty bad. NOT THIS ONE."

That's my friend Lauri in that PSA!

Your friend is Rachel Leigh Cook?
posted by mokin at 7:27 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that so many people are describing how the anti-smoking PSAs affected them. Unlike drugs, smoking doesn't really have any benefits. It ostensibly makes you look cooler, but that's mostly because of the tobacco industry's marketing. It makes sense that marketing would work AGAINST cigarettes, since most of their popularity is an effect of marketing.

On the other hand, drugs are popular because they're fun.
posted by mokin at 7:31 AM on April 17, 2013


MDMA is not benign. It's not heroin or cocaine, but it's not pot either.

Seeing these repeatedly listed as the "big bad" is just more fear mongering. Like anything, some people won't be able to handle them. Many will.
posted by spaltavian at 7:37 AM on April 17, 2013


We teach kids that oooh scary marijuana monster will carry them off to junkie-land if they're in the same room as a joint but not the actual dangers of the pills mommy or daddy got for after the root canal - and we're not teaching mommy and daddy about those dangers, either. We are dumb.

The deaths and injuries from prescription painkillers are more often from the unnecessary addition of acetometaphine and the like. Opiates' danger lies in their higher addiction levels, not from any particular poisonousness.
posted by spaltavian at 7:44 AM on April 17, 2013


In my imagination, dad is confronting his son in this PSA not for smoking pot, but for rolling shitting, lumpy, unevenly-burning joints w/out use of an herb grinder on the bud FIRST.

"Who taught you how to do this?"

"YOU DID, ALRIGHT! I LEARNED FROM WATCHING YOU!"

Parents; talk to your kids about rolling technique. Before their friends do.

And my dear, departed Mother-in-Law's "Best Advice To Her Daughter" is quoted And expanded as such:
Stick to the vegetable drugs. If you can grow it in your back yard and preparation is no more intensive than what you'd put into a meal, you're generally good. No powders, no pills, NO NEEDLES, nothing used to tranqulize large 4-legged mammals, nothing referred to on the street by its initials.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:45 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


My favorite one ever: I do coke so I can work longer...
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:47 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only anti-drug schooling that I remember was when a guy (I think he was an ex-cop?) came to our school and told us all about drugs. He didn't just tell us the bad things, he told us about the pleasurable effects as well. I appreciated his honesty, although I don't think it had the effect he desired. Still, it was better than teaching complete abstinence.

Also, I had a teacher who also worked as a drug counselor. He was the first person I knew who advocated complete drug legalization. I remember being completely stunned that anyone could believe that (this was in the early nineties, the middle of the War on Drugs era). It seemed so alien.
posted by mokin at 7:51 AM on April 17, 2013


This, also was a bit of a problem in that there is not a shoulder on that road, but rather an endless procession of well-kept front lawns, which I drove slowly through, knocking down mailboxes and cast concrete Virgin Mary statues the whole way while keeping my focus by blaring Basement Jaxx at a volume slightly less than that of the siren on a fire truck.

This is what American Graffiti should have been.
posted by arcticseal at 8:09 AM on April 17, 2013


Unlike drugs, smoking doesn't really have any benefits.

The smell of a fresh lit match; the first draw and release of smoke. The musty smell of an old tobacco pouch. The nicotine high of focus and hunger suppression, the fulfillment of oral and finger fixation/fidget needs.
posted by tilde at 9:05 AM on April 17, 2013


My favorite one ever: I do coke so I can work longer...
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:47 AM

Is that John Michael Higgins?
posted by orme at 9:10 AM on April 17, 2013


I should have clicked the "show more" button. Duh.
posted by orme at 9:13 AM on April 17, 2013


This is a bit sideways from the original topic (and therefore my usual M.O.), but on a similar tip of the problems of haranguing kids about the dangers of the world, I had the experience of being told in Sunday school class about the terrible new threat of child molestation (imagine this pronouncement echoing gravely around a cinder block basement church classroom in the late seventies). Our "hip" assistant pastor teacher had already warned us about the dangers of drugs, drinking, and cults (and helpfully pointed out that taoism is a cult), and this was the next hot new panic in the world.

He laid it all out for us in what was probably meant to be horribly vivid detail, about older men who would be nice to us and then touch us and then we'd be ruined forever and ever and, as he laid out the risks and how to avoid them, all I could think was that this was undoubtedly the hottest fucking thing I'd ever heard of in my whole young life, and I resolved right then and there to somehow get myself molested.

Now, of course, children are dopes, and I was, and sometimes still am, one of the dopiest of the lot, but I heard about powerful, dominant older men touching people like me and immediately imagined the older neighbor kids, who smoked and wore half shirts that showed off eye-searingly tantalizing treasure trails and who had mustaches bleached blonde by the heavy Southern sun, taking such liberties, and I did every damn thing I could to put myself in a risky situation.

Didn't work, almost certainly for the best, and around that time I found it was much easier just to fool around with friends of my own age, but it was ultimately a situation of unexpected consequences to a dire and somewhat histrionic warning. I was wrong, to be sure, in thinking that my molester would be, say, the hot nineteen year-old guy with the deliciously scratchy voice and the Barracuda rather than old Reverend Carbuncle with the nicotine-stained yellow fingers, plaque-encrusted teeth, and paint-peeling flatulence regularly billowing the slack backside of his camel-colored polyester beltless slacks, but the very important message about danger certainly sent me down that wrong alley.
posted by sonascope at 9:33 AM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm here posting from the middle of a bad situation caused by drugs and indirectly by drug PSAs. The stupidity and the clear out-of-touchness of the anti-drug programs leads you to believe that the segment of society that creates them are stupid, incompetent, and live in a fantasy world and how odd it is that these bumblers are trying to protect you. What a shock, then, to find that these people have the ability to discover that you are violating their laws and take serious action against you to mess up your life worse than the drugs would ever have done.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:45 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The few times I've tried pot, though, it's had absolutely no effect on me, so that's more a matter of "apparently for me there's no point in purchasing this"."

Uh, that's a common complaint from people who haven't gotten a good hit.
posted by klangklangston at 9:55 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


that's a common complaint from people who haven't gotten a good hit.

It's possible. It's nevertheless left me indifferent enough to not feel the need to seek it out on my own. I've occasionally been offered; sometimes I say yes, sometimes no. It's all good.

However, I do not think ill of the people offering, or indulging if I don't. Another thing I learned from this, and at my friends' college parties, is that if you're the only sober person in a room when everyone else is...not sober, it's really entertaining. In fact, that may be a good anti-drug argument right there - pointing out that if you stay clean, and instead hang back and take pictures of the other kids acting stupid, you are set with the best blackmail material and have ultimate power.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on April 17, 2013


When I was working at Ogilvy in the late nineties/early aughts, we had the ONDCP account and had to come up with the creative for a slew of online anti-drug ads. So naturally we'd get heavily baked with high-quality delivery service weed and sit in the conference room chowing down on meatloaf and gravy subs from the deli next door while brainstorming how to get kids to Just Say No. Good times.
posted by slogger at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't had a drop of alcohol since I found out that drinking literally makes you turn into a giant bottle. Sure, the kid in that ad turns back...but he was lucky.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:47 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of ridiculous Canadian PSAs, I've been unsuccessfully scouring the web for a mid-'90s anti-smoking ad showing a dude dousing a car with gasoline, lighting a smoke, tossing the match over his shoulder and then walking away in slow motion while the car explodes (to symbolize how much money you burn on cigarettes). That one made me want to start smoking.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:52 AM on April 17, 2013


No powders, no pills, NO NEEDLES, nothing used to tranqulize large 4-legged mammals, nothing referred to on the street by its initials.

I'm with you on the "no needles" thing, but if you follow the rest of those rules you're missing out on the best psychedelic experiences anyone has invented so far: MDMA, LSD, 2C-B, 5-MeO-DMT, ketamine... and those are just the most popular ones.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


>>No powders, no pills, NO NEEDLES, nothing used to tranqulize large 4-legged mammals, nothing referred to on the street by its initials.

>I'm with you on the "no needles" thing, but if you follow the rest of those rules you're missing out on the best psychedelic experiences anyone has invented so far: MDMA, LSD, 2C-B, 5-MeO-DMT, ketamine... and those are just the most popular ones.

Ketamine injected is very much qualitatively different experience (some would say better) than intranasal. Better yet than comfortable rules of thumb might just be thorough understanding of drug usage from a medical, psychological, and personal standpoint. Don't let other people do your thinking for you.
posted by Valued Customer at 11:52 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Caffeine, sugar, and THC are all the doctors are gonna find in me / when they do they autopsy"
-Boiled In Lead
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:08 PM on April 17, 2013


The smell of a fresh lit match; the first draw and release of smoke. The musty smell of an old tobacco pouch. The nicotine high of focus and hunger suppression, the fulfillment of oral and finger fixation/fidget needs.

Except for the nicotine high, all of these are pleasurable sensations associated with smoking, not a reason to smoke. Nobody ever says "I smoke because I just really love the musty smell of an old tobacco pouch."

And I don't think many people start smoking simply for the mild nicotine high.
posted by mokin at 12:25 PM on April 17, 2013


> "Your friend is Rachel Leigh Cook?"

Internet research immediately reveals that I appear to have fallen for a strange prank based on the fact that (1) I have a friend who looks exactly like Rachel Leigh Cook, and (2) I had no idea what Rachel Leigh Cook looked like until this moment.

I will have some (amused) words with Lauri's husband, who is actually the one who told me that she was the one who made that PSA in her youth.
posted by kyrademon at 1:46 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]




My favorite anti-drug PSA is either this one because the music is by Aphex Twin, which I find hilarious or this catchy, upbeat jingle about Meth.
posted by metaphorever at 2:17 PM on April 17, 2013


One of favorite bits of anti-drug ephemera was the NARC arcade game. I can't say it changed my opinions on drugs then, as I was 8 or so, and admittedly, it was a pretty kick-ass game.

And though, even then, I knew I was playing a game wherein you are playing as a heavily armed police officer walking down the street indiscriminately murdering and dismembering drug addicts and dealers , a game I played at eight years old at the fucking Pizza Hut, complete with the classic message from Mr. Sessions, it wasn't until some years later how hilariously fucked up it was, that it existed, and even seemed totally normal.

I mean, I'll buy a PCP head picking up a dumpster, and hookers being murdered by clowns probably involves drugs somehow, but how did they pick notRambo to represent potheads? Was this a stereotype back then? It should also be noted that you have the option to arrest the criminals, but it's really just a collection mechanic, and it's easier (and totally encouraged) just to shoot them or blow them up with a rocket.

Also, there's something chilling in hindsight about the ad tagline for the game "No one had the guts... Until Now!", especially given the Just Say No movement going on in stark paralell to the crack epidemic.

I'd say I'm surprised they never made a modern update for it, but then I remembered they totally did, and it sucked.

Finally, the FBI guy who says "Winners Don't Use Drugs" is named William F. Sessions? Come on, did no one see that??
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:47 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]




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