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close this bookDrug Education: Programmes and Methodology - An Overview of Opportunities for Drug Prevention (EC - UNESCO, 1995, 41 p.)
close this folderIII. Methods and techniques of drug education
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View the documentDrug Education and Mass Media
View the documentPrinciples of Mass Media
Open this folder and view contentsDrug Education utilizing group methods and techniques

Drug Education and Mass Media

Television, radio and magazines play a major role in forming the perceptions, attitudes and opinions of people, many of whom are strongly influenced by television programmes or articles on illness - and health related issues, like HIV/AIDS and psychoactive substances, such as medicines or drugs. Often they are exposed to advertising messages that try to persuade them to buy a specific medicine to prevent or to cure a certain disease.

People are also influenced by television programmes such as movies, soap operas or detective series that dramatise or glamorize drug use and drug users and which have a great impact on opinions and behaviour of which most people are unaware.

Over the past twenty years, drug education has been making increasing use of the possibilities of mass media to pass on educational messages to a large audience. Superficially, the only similarity between all these types of campaigns seems to be that they all make use of mass media based on the assumption that mass media campaigns greatly influence people's behaviour. On many other points, such differences exist as to make much more difficult any qualitative comparison between campaigns. Furthermore, especially in the older campaigns, clearly formulated, operational objectives in terms of hoped-for changes in attitude, social norms or behaviour are sadly lacking. Mostly there is nothing more than "awareness of the damaging effects of drug abuse" or "change of mentality", "influencing social norms" goals that can hardly be measured scientifically. A positive development has, however, recently been observed, which is probably linked with newly acquired insights in mass communication studies. Previous campaigns were particularly characterised by untargeted bombardments of information, based on the then popular "hypodermic needle theory" of the effects of mass media (15), whereas over the past 15 years many more campaigns have been aimed at specific target audiences.

(15) Klapper. J. T. The Effects of Mass Communication. New York. Free Press. 1960

The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) in the USA, has run separate mass media campaigns for specific social groups, such as drivers ("If you drink, don't drive, if you drive don't drink"), pregnant woman ("Pregnant? Before you drink think!") and young people. Relevant opinion leaders are selected and local support provided for the campaigns. Use is made of recently acquired scientific insights, for example, fear arousal techniques (slow motion replay of a drunk driver knocking down a child), and the latest research findings on the use of media, and the mechanisms of selectivity and exposure are taken into account (16).

(16) See Note. 7