By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The biggest danger of anti-marijuana hype is that when children and others find out that they have been lied to about marijuana, they then make the logical assumption that all information about other drugs like meth are either gross exaggerations or outright lies.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Kirk Muse, Mesa
A mistake in priorities: I think you did a good job in covering many of the issues about the Montana Meth Prevention Project. I do think I may have miscommunicated a couple of points.
I did say that "reefer madness" approaches are thought to be counterproductive. To the extent that the Montana Meth Project promulgates inaccurate, scare-based information, I agree it is probably not going to be effective and may be counterproductive.
However, I have not studied the Montana Meth Project materials and, except for a piece on the national news, I haven't seen any of the materials.
From what I have learned, there was considerable target group input into the creation of some (or all?) of the materials, and this is very positive and important.
Until you told me about the data collection being done to evaluate the program, I didn't know there was an evaluation being done. This is an extremely important and positive aspect of this program. In many areas, media are used to present anti-drug messages with absolutely no evaluation. It is good to see that a quality evaluation is being done.
Clearly, it is too early to expect to see dramatic effects on meth use, but some data do appear to be tentatively positive.
After doing a bit of reading about the overall campaign in Montana, which includes community-based activities and cooperation across many stakeholders, I can see that this campaign is not a one-note "reefer madness" campaign. I still don't know the nature of all the media spots, and I think it is safe to say that media spots that use dramatic, high-quality production approaches are not necessarily "reefer madness" scare tactics, but may, in fact, be communicating in an MTV-like language, which may, in fact, be extremely effective with the target groups.
I spend most of my life going around the U.S. speaking on meth and its harmful impact on people and communities inside the U.S. and outside. One of my very strong messages is that we have done a horrible job of communicating to potential users about the dangers of meth. I think the Montana project is an extraordinary experiment in drug prevention. However, it is, at present, an experiment that has not been completed, and while the investment of private dollars in Montana is a laudable and praiseworthy effort, in my opinion, the initiative needs to show that it works before large amounts of taxpayer dollars should be invested to replicate it elsewhere.
Unfortunately, tax dollars spent in one area typically mean that they are taken from other areas. There are thousands of meth-addicted individuals in Arizona who need treatment today. If the money for an unproven prevention campaign is taken from funds that could go to effective treatment services, I think this is premature and a mistake in priorities.
I do think the project is one of the most important drug-prevention programs undertaken in the U.S. in recent memory. I do think it goes far beyond reefer madness (although some of the elements may have this flavor). I think the organizers should be praised for their concern over the severe meth problem in Montana, and I applaud their willingness to invest their own private money into this effort. I am very impressed with their evaluation effort, as this is the component that is critical for us to learn from this investment, and it is the part that is often neglected.
Richard A. Rawson, Los Angeles