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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 folderV. Effectiveness of Drug Education
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Evaluation of Mass Media Drug Education

A fair number of studies have been carried out to determine the intended effects of mass media campaigns against drugs. These studies centre on determining how widely known these campaigns are on the one hand, and the impact they have had on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of population groups on the other. Most campaigns, especially those that make use of television and radio, are very well-known. As many as 95% of English youngsters had heard of the anti-heroin campaign. Research on its effects showed that there was a significant increase in knowledge of the negative effects of heroin use (51) and that negative attitudes towards the use of heroin had increased by ten percent.

51) See Note. 5

These results confirm the findings of many other studies that mass media campaigns can usually affirm an attitude that already exists or strongly increase attention on a problem but rarely have much impact on behaviour. Because a negative attitude can easily be put aside in a situation in which a youngster is offered drugs in the presence of his friends, the organisers of an earlier British campaign attempted to make it clear that refusing drugs in such a psychologically tricky situation does not necessarily mean losing face.

In comparison, the results of the rather low-key Dutch Mass Media Campaign "What everybody ought to know about drugs", showed that about 50% of respondents became more interested in the subject of drugs and about 75% found that their knowledge about drugs had increased as a result of reading the booklet distributed during the campaign. Thirty (30%) of respondents had changed their ideas about drugs and drug use and their attitude became more favorable with regard to talking about drugs and with drug users in their environment 52).

52) Alcalay, R. The Impact of Mass Communication Campaigns in the Health Field. Soc. Sco. Med. 1983. Vol. 17. pp. 92-97

In drug abuse prevention and health education literature, there is evidence that carefully coordinated mass media campaigns to support community prevention programmes are probably the most effective and most promising approach 53). Essentially this is the main strategy of the Swedish drug prevention and is also the current Dutch policy in the field of -alcohol abuse prevention. Mass media campaigns (slogan: "Drinking can break your heart") are aimed at the general drinking population and specific sectors, for example, the 700 municipalities in the country. Recently, a large-scale campaign was targeted at all secondary schools (slogan: "Do you know, do you care'), with educational programmes on Dutch school television, and training and instruction courses for teachers 54).

53) Van Ginneken, S. The Dutch Alcohol Education Project. Paper presented at the 36th ICAA Institute on the Prevention and Treatment of Alcoholism. Stockholm, Sweden. 1991

54) Hanson, D. J. The Effectiveness of Alcohol and Drug Education. In: Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. 1982. Vol. 27, pp. 1-13

Is there a point to anti-drug campaigns using mass media? Campaigns can influence attitudes and opinions with regard to drug abuse in such a way that the chance they will ever start using drugs decreases. To achieve this goal the right media must be used to pass on a clearcut message and, in peer groups, an attempt must be made to increase the effects of prevention at schools.