New anti-drug program shows 'phenomenal' success by focusing on positives

A newly-released study suggests that a well-designed in-school and community communication campaign really can dramatically cut marijuana and alcohol use among young teens.

In a study of 32 schools in 16 communities around the country, researchers found that the campaign cut in half the number of students who began using marijuana and alcohol during the two years of the project, compared to students in communities without the program.

"That's a startlingly strong effect," said Michael Slater, principal investigator of the study and professor of communication at Ohio State University.

The campaign included print materials, such as a series of posters, as well as promotional items such as book covers, tray liners, T-shirts, water bottles, rulers and lanyards.

Slater said the success of the campaign was largely due to the sophisticated, well-researched theme, developed over the past 15 years by study co-author Kathleen Kelly, professor of marketing at Colorado State University.

The theme was "Be Under Your Own Influence," which Kelly said speaks to teens' efforts to establish their own identities.

"The campaign slogan elicits positive attitudes about being independent and in control," she said. "It's something teens will listen to because it isn't preachy."

A very similar theme was recently adopted by Office of National Drug Control Policy for its national campaign, which it calls "Above the Influence." Slater served as chair of the advisory expert panel assisting that national campaign in 2003 and part of 2004.

Results of the study will be published in the journal Health Education Research: Theory and Practice.

Results showed that in communities with the "Be Under Your Own Influence" campaign, only about half as many teens reported taking up use of alcohol or marijuana, compared to teens in communities with no program, during the two years in which the campaign was in the schools.

The stu

Contact: Michael Slater
Ohio State University

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