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Negative drug Messages Found To Be Less Effective on addicts.

  1. Basoodler
    On Those Who Are Substance Dependent, Negative Messages Found To Be Less Effective

    What types of public messages will most likely deter drug and alcohol abuse or dissuade people from engaging in risky behavior? Negatively framed messages may not be an effective way to reach those most in need of persuasion, suggests a new study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors by researchers from Indiana University and Wayne State University.

    "The findings are somewhat ironic because a whole lot of public service announcements say, 'Drugs are bad for you,' 'Just say no,' or 'This is your brain on drugs' with an image of an egg frying," said principal investigator Joshua Brown, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences. "What we're seeing is that negative messages are not having the same impact on the brain."

    Using neuroimaging techniques, the researchers examined the impact of different messages on the brains of substance-dependent individuals and compared them to their effects on non-substance-dependent individuals. They also sought to determine where the problem lies in the circuit between message, brain and behavior, where the signal goes wrong. Is it in the relationship between brain activity and behavior or in the impact of the message on the brain? Perhaps the brains of substance-dependent people are sensitive to risk, but the knowledge does not guide their behavior. Or perhaps substance-dependent people perceive messages differently in the first place.

    To answer these questions, participants took part in a virtual game, the Iowa Gambling Task, often used in psychological studies on decision-making. Four decks of cards appear on a screen, and the participants were told they will either win or lose money by choosing certain decks. The substance-dependent group showed less brain activity in response to the negatively framed message that a certain deck would lead to losses. The negative messages also led to significantly worse, riskier decisions in the substance-dependent group than in the non-user group.

    The findings suggest that the level of brain activity in regions of the brain that assess risk is lower in substance-dependent individuals than those who are not drug- or alcohol-dependent. These two groups process the messages differently, particularly those messages that emphasize loss or reduced prospects for gain.

    The research contributes to a growing body of health communication literature that examines the impact of particular types of messages on the neural mechanisms involved in making risky decisions. It also contributes to a larger story about the regions of the brain that are activated in response to risk and danger. One particular region, the anterior cingulate cortex, is heavily involved in a variety of clinical disorders including drug abuse, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    At stake, Brown notes, are hundreds of billions in health care costs and lost productivity, as well as questions about public policy and how best to discourage drug abuse.

    "The government spends millions every year trying to discourage drug use, and a lot of the ads highlight the dangers of drugs," he said. "Should we spend more to highlight the benefits of staying clean instead?"

    Brown said they can't yet say whether positive messages are more effective at reducing drug use because their experiment involved decisions about money rather than drugs. They are working on it, though, and have just started to look at how people make decisions with respect to drugs

    The study, "Decisions During Negatively Framed Messages Yield Smaller Risk-Aversion-Related Brain Activation in Substance-Dependent Individuals," appears online at the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors (DOI: 10.1037/a0030633).

    Co-authors include professor Peter Finn, lead author and graduate student Rena Fukunaga, both with IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; and Tim Bogg, assistant professor at Wayne State University.

    This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, a 2005 NARSAD Young Investigator Award, the Sydney R. Baer Jr. Foundation and the Indiana METACyt Initiative of Indiana University.

    n.p. (2012, November 27). "On Those Who Are Substance Dependent, Negative Messages Found To Be Less Effective." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


  1. Basoodler
    Decisions During Negatively-Framed Messages Yield Smaller Risk-Aversion-Related Brain Activation in Substance-Dependent Individuals.
    Fukunaga R, Bogg T, Finn PR, Brown JW.


    A sizable segment of addiction research investigates the effects of persuasive message appeals on risky and deleterious behaviors. However, to date, little research has examined how various forms of message framing and corresponding behavioral choices might by mediated by risk-related brain regions. Using event-related functional MRI, we investigated brain regions hypothesized to mediate the influence of message appeals on decision making in substance-dependent (SD) compared with nonsubstance-dependent (non-SD) individuals. The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) was modified to include positively-framed, negatively-framed, and control messages about long-term deck payoffs. In the positively-framed condition, the SD and non-SD groups showed improved decision-making performance that corresponded to higher risk-aversion-related brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and anterior insula (AI). In contrast, in the negatively-framed condition, the SD group showed poorer performance that corresponded to lower risk-aversion-related brain activity in the AI region. In addition, only the non-SD group showed a positive association between decision quality and greater risk-related activity in the ACC, regardless of message type. The findings suggest substance-dependent individuals may have reduced neurocognitive sensitivity in the ACC and AI regions involved in risk perception and aversion during decision-making, especially in response to framed messages that emphasize reduced prospects for long-term gains. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

    PMID : 23148798[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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