Despite investing $1 billion in a massive anti-drug campaign, a controversial new study suggests that the push has failed to help the United States win the war on drugs.
A congressionally mandated study released today concluded that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign launched in the late 1990s to encourage young people to stay away from drugs "is unlikely to have had favorable effects on youths."
In fact, the study's authors assert that anti-drug ads may have unwittingly delivered the message that other kids were doing drugs, inadvertently slowing measured progress that was being made to curb marijuana use among teenagers.
"Youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana," the report suggests as a possible reason for its findings. "In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves."
The study's authors called the findings, published in the December edition of the American Journal of Public Health, "particularly worrisome because they were unexpected."
The widespread anti-drug campaign, which sprang from the efforts of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and supervised by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, targeted 12- to 18-year-olds starting in 1998. It has since pervaded American households via commercials, Web sites, advertisements in movie theaters and other platforms.