Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Public Service Announcements To Combat Meth

Methamphetamine addiction is a plague. Back in January, I participated in the “Crystal Darkness” campaign here in Oklahoma to raise awareness about the scourge of meth as well as other problems we face in our communities with substance abuse.

The Meth Project has a series of hard-hitting public service announcement (PSA) videos which draw attention to the high cost meth exacts on the lives of everyone it touches. The video “Sister” is one I watched which leaves little room for doubt about the desperate measures to which meth addicts go to sustain their habit. It is unfortunate the videos on this website do not permit embedding.

According to CNN’s article yesterday, “Meth ads talk to teens in Spanish,” PSA’s like these are not guaranteed to work with rebellious teens.

David Erceg-Hurn, a researcher and critic of the Meth Project, said: “There is the potential for boomerang effects with these ads. Some teenagers react negatively to graphic advertising. These people don’t like ‘being told how to behave’ by the ads and may rebel against them.”

I’d like to read research on the boomerang effect and its prevalence when it comes to health PSAs. (Some links to articles about this are available on the the WikiPedia article for “The Montana Meth Project.”) While some youth may respond negatively to advertisements like this, I think the key is TALKING about these issues and bringing them out into the open. Our kids face a wide variety of pressures today, and I think our myopic focus on standardized testing in schools has in some cases led to a loss of perspective. Certainly we want students to achieve well academically, but we also want to help them make and commit to make healthy choices when it comes to their lifestyle and personal lives outside of the classroom.

The website Life or Meth is one of the resources recommend by Oprah on her “Education, Intervention and Treatment Resources” for Meth addiction. An extensive list of meth-related educational resource links is available on “Meth Basics” from the Multnomah County, Oregon website (PDF.) The website Sevenload has extensive links to videos about crystal meth as well. The Montana Meth Project has shared some of the videos linked above to its YouTube website. I wonder why project administrators haven’t shared ALL the videos there?

I’ve added links to these resources in our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices PSA group.

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2 responses to “Public Service Announcements To Combat Meth”

  1. Peter Avatar

    I don’t see why Hispanic teens are being targeted. Isn’t meth widely abused by all teens in general? So why make Hispanics the focus of such horrific ads? Something about this ad campaign stinks. It seems to be more interested in presenting shocking images involving Hispanics rather than in discouraging meth abuse. It really is a disgusting approach almost as bad as those people who use pictures of aborted fetuses to oppose abortion. It only angers people instead of encouraging them to change.

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Peter: I don’t think this is an ad campaign which is targeting Hispanics in a disproportionate way. Reading the article, it sounds like the folks behind the campaign see value in communicating the message in Spanish as well as English, in the hope that the message gets through. I agree some of these ads are shocking, and seem to be designed to shock. The realities of meth abuse are very stark in many cases, and I think the proponents of this campaign would contend these types of messages are required to get the attention of youth. I’m not sure whether this campaign is effective or not. I suspect the most effective method of combatting self-destructive behaviors is building strong relationships with mentors, having opportunities to develop positive role models through constructive involvement with others in different types of organizations, etc. It seems this campaign is well intentioned, but i also question its true impact. Getting people’s attention with an advertisement does not necessarily correlate to different behaviors and choices.