“I helped kill a judge.” “I helped blow up buildings.” On Sunday the 130 million Americans who watched the Super Bowl were greeted with these and similar statements in an government-sponsored attempt to dissuade individuals from using illegal drugs. As part of the annual football extravaganza, the Office of National Drug Control Policy purchased two commercials for a combined total of $3 million. The ads tried to connect drug use with the funding of terrorist actions and implicitly blame drug users for these crimes. Sadly, the ONDCP has decided to capitalize on the events of Sept. 11 to pursue its agenda. This action will do nothing more than stigmatize and alienate those with serious drug problems.

The ad campaign was unusual in that it was created directly through the ONDCP. In the past, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a non-profit and private organization, has been involved in the creation and distribution of anti-drug advertisements. However, this commercial was directly financed with ONDCP funds. It is unfortunate that the government is sponsoring an ad that does not disseminate information but relies on innuendo and explosive statements.

The implication of the Super Bowl ads is that drug users directly aid terrorists and are thus complicit in their actions. While the ads attempt to ease the United State”s drug problem, this inflammatory argument will do little to alleviate this public health problem.

Drug abusers should not be isolated from society and treated as immoral reprobates but must have open access to rehabilitation facilities and support groups. The atmosphere of distrust and blame that the ONDCP”s ads foment will certainly harm those who are most helpless.

The commercial makes the crucial mistake of judging all forms of drug use as equivalent. Due to the advertisements” implicit connection between terrorism and soft drug use, there is no differentiation between heavily addictive drugs and those with less serious repercussions or even positive social benefit.

This policy could be disastrous from a prevention standpoint. Once the harm of drugs such as marijuana is overstated, a systematic distrust of government information is created. In the early “90s, for example, studies showed that children receiving drug “education” from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program tended to dabble in harder drugs later in life.

The Bush administration has seriously erred in these ads, confusing what should be a public health issue, addressed seriously and scientifically, with an opportunity to capitalize on the events of Sept. 11 and propagate a misguided brand of nationalism.

While it is certainly within the prerogative of the ONDCP to advocate responsibility and prevention this manipulative campaign oversteps this role. The commercials exploit the fear of terrorism to irrationally blame and judge those who bear no culpability for terrorist attacks. Despite the beliefs of the ONDCP, drug abuse is a personal problem that should be treated through medicine and counseling not guilt and shame.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.