Are Antidrug Ads Backfiring?
Results from a new study suggest antidrug ads may increase drug usage among college students.
A boy high on pot accidentally shoots his friend. A carload of stoned teenagers slams into a little girl on a bike. These stark images are used in televised antidrug ads. The federal government spent about 170 million dollars to air them this year. But researchers at Texas State University in San Marco have some troubling news: Such ads may actually increase the likelihood that kids will use drugs.
Maria Czyzewska and Harvey Ginsberg found that the government-funded ads had a disturbing "boomerang" effect on a sample of 53 college students. Three out of four students said they had more favorable impressions of drugs after watching the commercials than they had before. The ads' weaknesses, the researchers explained in their recent presentation to the American Psychological Society in Chicago, is that students see them as exaggerated and nonfactual, creating distrust of the source and its message.
In another study, the researchers found that students are more receptive to antismoking ads. The difference may lie in the antismoking campaign's more factual approach, as opposed to the exaggerated dangers trumpeted by the antidrug ads.
Psychology Today, 2006
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