Approach Emphasizes Scare Tactics over More Effective Reality-Based Education
Denver, CO – Governor John Hickenlooper has introduced his administration’s marijuana prevention campaign to deter underage consumption.
The theme of the campaign is marijuana’s potential impact on the developing adolescent brain, using the slogan “don’t be a lab rat.” The administration plans to place human sized rat cages throughout the city of Denver, particularly at high-traffic bus stops. While flashy and memorable, the campaign has raised concerns among advocates who question the credibility of this approach. Drug policy reformers and prevention experts invoke the cynicism generated by 1980s-era scare tactic efforts such as the notorious “This is your brain on drugs” ad, widely recognized today as far more attention grabbing than drug deterring.
Advocates recommend instead an approach that focuses on credible drug education delivered through programs and initiatives that focus on overall youth health and development. Reality-based efforts engage students and prevent the cynicism resulting from simplistic scare tactics. Furthermore, to be successful, parents and/or guardians should be directly involved in drug education and prevention efforts.
According to recent data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, high school marijuana use rates – past 30 days – declined between 2011 and 2013 from 22% from 20%, compared to a national average of 23%.
Statement from Jerry Otero, youth policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance:
“We are aware this campaign is in its infancy and not fully funded at this point,” said Jerry Otero, youth policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Our goal is to continue good relations with the Governor’s office and help shape this campaign for the better moving forward. Ultimately, we hope to reveal that a youth development approach is a more realistic, honest and effective way to help kids avoid problems with drugs and other problem behaviors. This is where we need to focus our energy and tax revenue, providing infrastructure for schools and youth organizations to provide programs and initiatives to help youth develop into critical community assets and agents of change, capable of transforming their environments, and ready to take on more responsible roles within their neighborhoods and communities.”