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Brief History

the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

In the mid-1980s, a small group of advertising professionals discussed how to best use their talents to address the nation’s drug problem. They thought, if advertising could be used to sell products, couldn’t it be used to unsell them as well?

This core team formed the Media-Advertising Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a concept for a non-profit organization born from the American Association Advertising Agencies (AAAA). The name was later shortened to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The idea was to harness the power of the media, coupled with compelling research-based consumer advertising, to turn the tide on drug abuse trends, specifically among teens and youth. At the time, the nation was in the throes of the crack cocaine epidemic and we focused our efforts to help reduce demand for those drugs through our proven-effective public service advertising (PSA) campaigns and, today, crack and cocaine use is down 70 percent.

Throughout our history, we would come to win numerous advertising and efficacy awards for our PSA campaigns, which over the past two decades, have targeted other dangerous illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, Ecstasy and other club drugs. But the current drug landscape has changed drastically as kids have become more savvy than generations before them. Through technology, American youth literally have the world at their fingertips, making it even more important for parents to break through as the prominent influence in their kids’ lives.

Over the past several years, we have expanded our work, now including prescription drug abuse and underage drinking. We’ve focused on parents as our key leverage point, not only in preventing teen substance abuse, but in getting help for a child who is struggling with drugs or drinking. In addition, we expanded to include resources and information for community stakeholders, who also play a key role in keeping kids healthy and safe. We have dedicated the lion’s share of our efforts to developing science-based, online resources — which we promote to parents, caregivers and community stakeholders, utilizing our long-standing relationships with the advertising, media, public policy and business communities. With grants from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, we’ve augmented our online resources to include community education programs that take our parent education to the grassroots level. We also launched our Parents Toll-Free Helpline (855-DRUGFREE), a nationwide support service that offers assistance to parents and other caregivers of children who want to talk to someone about their child’s drug abuse and drinking.

Today, in talking and engaging with parents on our website, at our community education trainings and via our grassroots partners and parent support network — we know they are looking for help. And parents are finding the help they need through our programs and at drugfree.org.

With our new name, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, we have adopted an evolved vision: the vision of a world where all young people will be able to live their lives free of drug and alcohol abuse.

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