White House to Start Anti-Opioid Ad Campaign

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The Trump administration expects to begin an ad campaign targeted at curbing opioid abuse next week, with a message that is expected to "shock the conscience."

The ads, produced in partnership with the Ad Council, are aimed at young people, according to Axios, and have already been focus-grouped. They will provide links where teens can learn more and get help for opioid abuse from those they know.

The ads will "enrage and engage," emotional terms set directly by President Donald Trump. Trump, who makes no appearance in the ads, was inspired by the classic "your brain on drugs" ad, according to Axios's sources.

Such ads were central to the three-pronged strategy to combat the opioid epidemic the president announced in March. The idea of an evidence-based ad campaign also appeared in the final report of the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction, a bipartisan blue ribbon panel which was charged with providing Trump with recommendations on fighting America's surging opioid criss.

"The best way to beat the drug crisis is to keep people from getting hooked in the first place," Trump said at the time. "This has been something I have been strongly in favor of—spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is."

Trump's support for 1980s-style ads like "your brain on drugs" marks a common cause with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has advocated for the revival of the 1980s anti-drug abuse program D.A.R.E. Sessions's support of the program attracted criticism from the left, a trend that is likely to repeat with Trump's support of tough on drugs advertisements.

The evidence on the efficacy of anti-drug PSAs is mixed. One particularly infamous anti-marijuana ad campaign in the early 2000s, not only had no impact but, according to a study of the ad's impact, may have actually slightly induced teens to start smoking weed.

But another anti-drug campaign, the "above the influence" PSA, was found to be associated with, "greater anti-drug beliefs, fewer drug use intentions, and less marijuana use." Similarly, the anti-smoking "Truth" PSA campaign has been shown to have reduced teens' intention to smoke.

In other words: the impact of Trump's proposed campaign remains to be seen, but is not without successful precedent.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at lehman@freebeacon.com.

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