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Federal Anti-Drug Campaign Reduces Teen Marijuana Use

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A new study led by a researcher at Ohio State University provides evidence that the federal anti-drug campaign, “Above the Influence,” successfully stops some adolescents from using marijuana, according to a university press release.

The study focused on the “Above the Influence” media campaign run by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and a local campaign based in schools and communities called “Be Under Your Own Influence.” Although the latter campaign pre-dated “Above the Influence” and was developed separately, both had a similar goal of capitalizing on teens’ desire to be independent.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and launched in 2005, surveyed 3,236 students in 20 communities. Each youth was surveyed four times, beginning in 7th grade and ending 18 months later. As many as 79 percent of youth said they had seen the “Above the Influence” campaign. By the end of the eighth grade, 12 percent of youth who said they had not seen either campaign were using marijuana. In comparison, only 8 percent of youth who had seen the campaigns were using the drug.

Michael Slater, professor of communication at Ohio Sate University, said the results were encouraging. Research conducted on an earlier ONDCP campaign, “My Anti-Drug,” found no effects. He said that the “Above the Influence” campaign “really works to honor teens’ interest in becoming autonomous and achieving goals and stays away from messages that don’t really reach the teens who are most likely to use marijuana.”

“This study confirms that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign is effective, relevant to youth, and a vital tool in supporting drug prevention efforts of communities across the country,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy at the ONDCP.

Some limitations of the study design were that it did not use a random sample of youth and that findings were based on self-reporting, said Slater.

The complete study, “Assessing Media Campaigns Linking Marijuana Non-Use with Autonomy and Aspirations: ’Be Under Your Own Influence’ and ONDCP’s ’Above the Influence,’” appeared online in the the Jan. 2011 issue of Prevention Science.

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