An Overview and Evaluation of the National Anti-Drug Media Campaign

Recent national survey data indicates that drug use among American youth has been on rise since 1990s and continues to grow throughout the years. In order to prevent drug abuse among youth, laws enforce educational institutions to inform students about drug issues and related health risks. However, the effectiveness of the curriculum remains unclear because the lack of organized coordination and strong strategy. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign generated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) illustrates both the theory of campaign effects and implications that theory has for the evaluation design.

The Drug Resistance Strategies Project (DRS) designed a curriculum based on teaching communication and educating life skills to combat negative peer and other influences through school-based prevention. Divided into ten lessons and supplemented by separate videos, the campaign speaks its essential strategies against drug abuse—Refuse, Explain, Avoid and Leave. This campaign extended understanding by using a culturally based narrative and performance framework to enhance antidrug norms and attitudes, and to facilitate training on risk assessment, decision-making, and ability to resist. Moreover, it employs ethnicities and certain cultural values within the area as assistance to deliver the campaign message.

DRS utilized three parallel versions of a ten-session classroom curriculum: a Mexican American centered version, a non-Mexican American centered version (Black and White), and a Multicultural version developed by incorporating five lessons each from the first two versions. The first version oriented itself toward Mexican American culture, a significant subgroup in the Southwestern region as well as the largest ethnic minority group in the U.S. today. Focusing prevention on Mexican American youth responds to the needs of an under-researched community and at the same time provides a useful example of a specific culturally relevant program. The second version focused to both European American and African American cultures. These are the two largest minority ethnic groups in the target school’s schools. Including this version provided a comparison not specifically targeted to the majority ethnic/cultural group (Mexican Americans) as well as allowed DRS to provide versions of the curriculum relevant to other students.

Culture was infused into the program through a number of techniques. First, the curriculum was constructed from cultural narratives. Narratives or stories were collected from adolescents in each ethnic group and used to create the performance-based elements of the curriculum. In addition, the interventions incorporated values identified and commonly cited as central to Mexican American, European American, or African American cultures. Because they influence how individuals deal with others, affirming these relational and communication values can encourage students to resist substance use in a manner most familiar to them, and subsequently enhance the chance of success of the campaign.