Researcher Says Anti-Meth Ads Don't Work and Waste Taxpayer Funds

Research from Down Under published in a scientific journal recently claims the anti-meth advertising program in Montana, (the one on which the Arizona Meth Project is based), wastes millions of taxpayer dollars because it isn't effective.

David Erceg-Hurn, a doctoral student at the University of Western Australia, published the paper in the December 2008 edition of Prevention Science journal and was soon asked by Montana's governor to come to the state to talk about it. Instead, Erceg-Hurn submitted a detailed report to the governor in which he recommended the program be allowed to die. (New Times was skeptical of the program before it even began in Arizona).

Sonoran Alliance blog has a good take on the issue today, pointing out that state Attorney General Terry Goddard should cut the meth ad program -- especially with so many employees being laid off and taking furloughs. As Chewie notes, it doesn't seem right that Goddard wants to keep the program alive in this economic climate -- especially when its worth is in doubt.

Unfortunately, Chewie seems to have hosed it again.

Anne Hibly, spokeswoman for Goddard, tells us this afternoon that the AG's office last funded the Arizona Meth Project two years agos. The program may receive some county money, but is largely funded by grants at this point.

Still, whoever is funding it ought to take a second look -- state statistics show meth use was actually dropping among youth for years before the Arizona Meth Project began in 2007.

True, as Goddard says in his article, meth use has been dropping:

The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission reports that since the launch of the Arizona Meth Project, use of the drug among youth has significantly declined, falling by more than half in many categories.

The thing is, the ACJC numbers also show that use of meth had declined -- significantly -- before the project's launch. That must make it tough to figure out whether the Meth Project ads have contributed to that decline. Perhaps the drop has something to do with the state's other anti-meth programs, like law enforcement crackdowns and the restriction on cold medicine sales, or perhaps the newer generation prefers different kinds of illegal drugs.

It should also be kept in mind that these aren't scientific surveys we're talking about -- these are voluntary surveys handed out to students who choose whether or not to fill them in. Also, it seems possible that fewer students are being honest in the latest survey about their meth use, given the villification of the drug in the widely seen Meth Project ads. Nobody -- not even meth users, presumably -- want to be associated with the models depicted in the ads, with their fake, bad teeth and faces painted up to make them look like the worst kind of dirtbag tweaker.

We phoned a few addiction treatment centers in the Valley to get their take. The first thing we noticed is that addiction treatment centers tend not to answer their phones on a Friday afternoon. Then we got ahold of Rick Kramer, the director of House for Acceptance, a Mesa addiction treatment center that's been in business for 21 years, and asked him if he thought more or less youth were getting into meth.

"Off the top of my head, I'd have to say more," Kramer tells us.