From Cringeworthy to Scary: A History of Anti-Drug PSAs

For decades, we’ve been trying to convince teens that drugs are dangerous, definitely not fun and totally deadly.

Beginning in the 1980s, adults — namely a combination government, non-profits and ad companies — weaponized something they knew teens already loved: TV. The simple idea was to use TV advertising to cement messages in teens’ minds that would discourage drug use, encourage them to stay substance-free and draw a line in the sand between users and non-users.

Although the U.S. government has spent more than a billion dollars on funding anti-drug public service announcements since the 1980s, there’s little evidence to show that anti-drug PSAs pay off. But that’s not stopping governments and non-profits from again reaching to the anti-drug PSA handbook, even if the reasons we remember anti-drug PSAs are the exact reasons their makers didn’t intend.

Read More at NPR’s Marketplace