GAO Says White House Anti-Drug Campaign Hasn't Worked

by , Aug 28, 2006, 8:01 AM
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This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. And this is the advertising part of your brain, which may appear normal, according to a new Federal agency study. A Government Accountability Office report released last week says the $100 million-a-year White House youth anti-drug advertising program hasn't worked. Teens got the wrong message.

"Exposure to the advertisements generally did not lead youth to disapprove of using drugs and may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others' drug use was normal," the GAO report said. "Moreover, the evaluation was unable to demonstrate that changes in parental attitudes led to changes in youth attitudes or behaviors toward drug use." The study took two and a half years to produce.

Between 1998 and 2004, Congress appropriated over $1.2 billion to the Office of National Drug Control Policy for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The campaign aims to prevent the initiation of--or curtail the use of--drugs among the nation's youth.

The White House disagrees with the study's findings. "Teen use is down dramatically over the last four years in exactly the demographics targeted by the campaign," a White House Office spokesman told Television Week. "Yet there has been no movement in any other demographics. Do the math. It's common sense."

The GAO report said that teens' and parents' recall of campaign ads did increase over time.

Analysts believe the GAO findings are problematic for the ONDCP. The report recommends that Congress limit funding until the ONDCP "provides credible evidence of a media campaign approach that effectively prevents and curtails youth drug use."

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