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The Next Front in the Drug War: the Media

The nation's youth too often get a pro-drug message from TV, films, and ads, but that's about to be countered

About these ads

Corporations spend billions of dollars on advertising because it works. The electronic media - television, radio, film, videos, Internet, CD ROM, and multimedia (including print augmented by color photography) - are the strongest educational tools of the modern world. They change attitudes and behavior among youth in the fastest, most effective way. So if Americans are serious about reducing substance abuse, an aggressive media campaign is a crucial addition to drug prevention at home, in schools, and in communities.

Congress is now considering just such a campaign - our proposal to spend $175 million to motivate young people to reject illegal drugs. Through support from the media and others in the private sector, this figure could double - allowing us to increase both paid advertisements and public service efforts.

The need is clear

Such an initiative is unquestionably necessary. Even though overall drug use in our country has dropped by half in the last 15 years, teenage drug use rose precipitously. Eighth-grade use, for example, nearly tripled in the last five years. During this period, the number of antidrug public service announcements fell by 30 percent, and many aired in time slots that attract few children.

The media initiative is only the beginning of a greater educational campaign that will use every tool available to reach US youngsters. Documentaries about the history of drug use, the impact of narco-terrorism, and the link between drugs, crime, and the justice system can be supplemented by factual, dramatic shows about the consequences of substance abuse. Young viewers would be more likely to shun addictive substances if they were better informed about the violence associated with this criminal industry, as well as the health risks posed by illegal drugs.

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