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Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign - Executive Summary

The number one goal of The National Drug Control Strategy is to "Educate and enable America’s youth to reject illegal drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco." Objectives in support of that goal include "Pursue a vigorous advertising and public communications program dealing with the dangers of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use by youth." Under the Treasury-Postal Appropriations Act of 1998, Congress approved funding (P.L. 105-61) for "a national media campaign to reduce and prevent drug use among young Americans." Pursuant to this act, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) launched the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (the Media Campaign).

This program has progressed through three phases of increasing complexity and intensity. Phases I and II are not discussed in this report. ONDCP has other reports available that evaluate those phases. This report focuses on Phase III, which began in September 1999 and is planned to run at least until 2003. An evaluation of Phase III is being conducted under contract to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) by Westat and its subcontractor, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Funding of the evaluation is provided by ONDCP from the appropriation for the Media Campaign itself. This is the first semi-annual report of the Westat and Annenberg evaluation of Phase III of the Media Campaign.

This report by Westat and Annenberg provides four types of information:

  1. A brief description of the Media Campaign’s activities to date;
  1. A review of the logic and approach of the evaluation;
  1. Statistics on the level of exposure to messages achieved by the Media Campaign in the first 9 months of Phase III; and
  1. A description of baseline behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of both parents and youth. These descriptions focus on the outcomes that will be monitored over time for possible changes that might be brought about by the Media Campaign.

This report from the Westat and Annenberg evaluation presents a first round of measurement. It includes early estimates of exposure to the Media Campaign, and it identifies anti-drug beliefs and drug use behaviors that will be watched over time both for movement and for their association with exposure. It thus sets the stage for the evaluation. This report contains no findings about the effectiveness of the Media Campaign. Such findings after only 9 months of operation of Phase III of the Media Campaign would be premature. This reflects both substantive and technical concerns. From the substantive perspective, effects are expected to be achieved and measurable after a longer period of Media Campaign operations. From the technical perspective, there would be little confidence in inferences from a simple cross-sectional analysis, without even accompanying evidence for change over time in outcomes.

The first report on tentative analyses of effects will be issued after the next wave of data collection in March 2001. At that time, there will be some evidence presented about changes, if any, in outcome measures like the cognitive variables of interest such as beliefs about the consequences of marijuana use at least once or twice in a lifetime. This evidence about change will be complemented by evidence about association of exposure with the outcome measures. However, it is possible that Media Campaign-produced change will take longer to achieve and/or to detect. Indeed, conclusive evidence will take several years to accumulate and analyze. The final report is scheduled for March 2004. At that time, the sample youth and their parents will have been studied for 3 to 4 years.

Background on the Media Campaign

The Media Campaign has three goals:

  • Educate and enable America's youth to reject illegal drugs;
  • Prevent youth from initiating use of drugs, especially marijuana and inhalants; and
  • Convince occasional users of these and other drugs to stop using drugs.

The Media Campaign targets paid advertising at youth aged 9 to 11, 12 to 13, and 14 to 18, parents of youth in these age ranges, and other influential adults. Phase III advertising is being disseminated through a full range of media or "channels" following a Communications Strategy developed by ONDCP. Phase III also includes components other than advertising. There are partnerships with the media, entertainment and sports industries, as well as civic, professional, and community groups. These other components, which are being coordinated by a public relations firm, include encouraging entertainment programs with anti-drug themes, coverage of the anti-drug campaign in the news media, community activities, corporate co-sponsorship, and special interactive media programming.

ONDCP runs the Media Campaign in collaboration with the following groups:

  • The Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA), which provides the creative advertising for the Media Campaign through its existing pro bono relationship with leading American advertising companies;
  • A Behavioral Change Expert Panel (BCEP) of outside scientists who help to inform the content of the advertisements to reflect the latest research on behavior modification, prevention, and target audiences;
  • Ogilvy, a national advertising firm, which organizes and executes media buying, carries out some supportive research, assures a coherent advertising strategy, and conducts day-to-day management of the Media Campaign; and
  • Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations firm, which coordinates the non-advertising components of the Media Campaign.

For Phase III, advertising space is purchased on television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, transit ads, bus shelters, movie theaters, video rentals, Internet sites, Channel One broadcast in schools, and other venues as appropriate. The television buys include spot (local), network, and cable television. One of the requirements in the Media Campaign appropriations language is that each paid advertising slot must be accompanied by a donation of equal value for public service messages from the media, known as the pro bono match. The pro bono match involves one-to-one matching time for public service advertisements or in-kind programming. The pro bono spots may include anti-alcohol, anti-tobacco themes, and mentoring, but such themes will not be part of the paid advertising.

Methodology

The report presents results from an in-home survey of 3,312 youth from 9 to 18 years old and 2,293 of their parents undertaken between November 1999 and May 2000. These respondents represent the approximately 40 million youth and 43 million of their parents who are the target audience for the Media Campaign. The name of this survey is the National Survey of Parents and Youth (NSPY).

NSPY was designed to represent youth living in homes in the United States. Sampling of eligible youth was designed to produce approximately equal sized samples within three age subgroups (9-11, 12-13, 14-18). One or two youth were randomly selected from each eligible sample household. One parent was randomly chosen for each eligible household. A second parent was drawn in the rare event where the two sample youth were not siblings.

The interviewers for NSPY achieved a response rate of 64 percent for youth and 61 percent for parents. Final estimates are adjusted for nonresponse, for differences with known population characteristics, with confidence intervals accounting for the complex sample design.

NSPY questionnaires were administered in respondents’ homes on touch-screen laptop computers. Because of the sensitive nature of the data to be collected during the interviews, a certificate of confidentiality was obtained for the survey from the Department of Health and Human Services, and confidentiality was promised to the respondent. All sensitive questions and answer categories appeared on the laptop screen and were said to the respondent in a recorded voice over headphones that could only be heard by the respondent. The responses were chosen by touching the laptop screen.

The NSPY questionnaire for youth included extensive measurement of their exposure to Media Campaign messages, and other anti-drug messages, their beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors with regard to drugs and a wide variety of other factors either known to be related to drug use or likely to make youth more or less susceptible to Media Campaign messages.

The NSPY questionnaire for parents also included measures about exposure to Media Campaign messages, and other anti-drug messages. In addition, it included questions about their beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors with regard to their interactions with their children. These included talk with their children about drugs, parental monitoring of children’s lives, and involvement in activities with their children.

Ad exposure was measured in NSPY for both youth and parents by playing TV and radio advertisements for respondents on laptop computers to aid their recall. The NSPY questionnaires and procedures were designed to mesh well with the nature of the Media Campaign. Production of commercials is frequently finished only days before they go on the air and the commercials change often. Every 2 months, a CD-ROM of new ads is distributed to the interviewers. Also, a new schedule of planned air dates is distributed by email every month. At the time of interview, the computer calculates which ads were scheduled to be on the air during any part of the 2 calendar months preceding the month of interview. A sample of these ads was then shown to the respondent. When the data were processed, data about an ad were kept only if the final air dates included at least 1 day in the 60 days leading up to the date of interview. Thus, everyone in the sample was measured with respect to advertising that was current at the time of their interview.

The Media Campaign included ads aimed at youth and ads aimed at parents. In NSPY, youth were only shown youth-targeted ads and parents were only shown parent-targeted ads. Every youth and parent was also shown a TV "ringer ad," an ad that had an anti-drug message but for various reasons had never been aired on TV. These ringer ads were included as a tool for assessing the quality of ad recall by respondents. In addition, there were some unaided questions about recall of ads seen or heard on TV and radio, and in other media such as newspaper, magazines, and billboards.

NSPY Estimates of Youth Drug Use and Other Behavior

Following the goals of the Media Campaign given earlier, NSPY was specifically designed to assess the particular influence of the Media Campaign on trial (i.e., using at least once in a lifetime) and regular use (i.e., using at least 10 or more times in a year) of marijuana and inhalants. NSPY includes questions about drug use primarily so that the correlations of cognitive variables with actual usage can be studied. It was also designed to measure linkages in a theoretical model for Media Campaign action: linkages between ad exposure and attitudes, between attitudes and intentions, and between intentions and actions (drug use).

Because they have larger samples and long trend lines, two other surveys sponsored by the federal government – the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) and Monitoring the Future (MTF) study – provide better measurements of change in drug use behaviors. Nonetheless, it is interesting to compare NSPY estimates with those of other surveys. Some comparisons are made in Chapter 6 of this report, but they are difficult to interpret because of confounding with time. Estimates for early 2000 will not be available from the other surveys until late 2000 and mid-2001. In general, NSPY estimates for early 2000, displayed in Table ES-A, tend to be comparable to the most recent (1999) NHSDA marijuana estimates and lower than the estimates from the most recent (1999) MTF study. This may be because NHSDA and NSPY are both household surveys whereas MTF is a school-based study. The set of youth who participate in household surveys is somewhat different than the corresponding set for school-based studies, and youth may feel different constraints or pressures on their reporting in the different environments.

The available data from the 1999 MTF study suggest that marijuana use has been stable since 1998. However, those data were collected in the spring of 1999; it is too early to have expected to see any effects of the Phase III Media Campaign.

The estimates from NSPY for both marijuana and inhalant use among youth in early 2000 are presented in Table ES-A. Consistent with findings from other surveys, usage increases with age and marijuana is much more popular than inhalants. Regular use of inhalants is a rare behavior.

Table ES-A
Use of marijuana and inhalants (percentages) in early 2000

 
Marijuana use
Inhalant use
Age group
Ever
Past year
Past month
Ever
Past year
Past month
9-11
1.0
0.8
0.4
1.0
0.4
0.1
12-13
5.1
3.3
1.8
1.9
1.1
0.4
14-15
16.8
11.2
3.1
5.3
2.4
0.5
16-18
40.0
29.0
13.3
8.8
3.1
1.0

Since parents are also interviewed in NSPY, it is possible to contrast parent knowledge of drug usage by the youth with what the youth reports. As shown in Table ES-B, fewer parents report drug use by their children in the last year than youth do themselves. However, the gap is not very wide until the youth are 16 to 18. The gaps for inhalants (not shown) are much narrower.

Table ES-B
Percentages of parents and youth reporting past year usage of marijuana

Report
Age of youth
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
Parent: My child has used marijuana in last 12 months.
0.2
2.9
9.0
19.5
Youth: I have used marijuana in last 12 months.
0.8
3.3
11.2
29.0
Gap
-0.6
-0.4
-2.2
-9.5

Youth receive many offers of marijuana, but they claim they rarely accept. Almost 50 percent of youth aged 16 to 18 have received a marijuana offer in the past 30 days. In contrast, just 13 percent of youth aged 16 to 18 report having smoked marijuana in the past 30 days. See Figure ES-A.

Figure ES-A
Offers and use of marijuana by age

Figure ES-A. Offers and use of marijuana by age

Youth Beliefs and Attitudes About Marijuana Use

Analyses presented here separate non-users from occasional users and deal separately with ideas about trial and regular use. Non-users are defined to be youth who have never tried marijuana. Occasional users are those who have used marijuana 1 to 9 times in the past 12 months. There are also regular users (10 or more uses in last 12 months) and former users (lifetime trial but no usage in last 12 months), but these groups are too small for separate reporting.

Among 9- to 11-year-old non-users, beliefs were strongly negative toward trial use of marijuana. On a 1- to 7-point attitude scale, where 7 indicates a strongly negative attitude, their mean response was 6.8. However, they are not convinced about the gateway hypothesis that marijuana usage leads to or causes its users to progress to harder drugs. Only 18 percent strongly believe that marijuana trial would make them go on to use harder drugs.

Older non-using teens also generally expressed negative attitudes and beliefs about trial marijuana use, but they were less consistent than the 9- to 11-year-olds. While their mean attitude was strongly negative (6.6), and almost all of them were definitely not intending to even try marijuana in the next year (92% of 12-13 year olds and 83% of 14-18 year old non-users ), the older they were the less likely they were to see all aspects of marijuana trial as completely negative.

Perception of use by friends and peers increases sharply with age. Among youth aged 14 to 18, 69 percent (vs. 94% of 12- to 13-year-olds) believe that none or a few of their friends have tried marijuana and just 29 percent (vs. 75% of 12- to 13-year-olds) believe that none or a few of "other kids in their grade in school" have tried marijuana. The majority believe that more than a few of their peers have tried marijuana.

Almost all non-using youth agreed that their parents would strongly disapprove of their own (the youth’s) marijuana trial. Only 7 percent thought otherwise. There was no significant pattern in this belief by the age of the youth.

With respect to getting in trouble with the law, 45 percent of non-using youth aged 12 to 13 viewed this is as a very likely outcome of trial use. The corresponding percentage was just 32 percent for non-using youth aged 14 to 18.

With respect to being like the coolest kids, 63 percent of non-using youth aged 12 to 18 viewed this is as a very unlikely outcome of trial use.

With respect to friends approval of marijuana trial, 77 percent of non-using youth aged 9-11 expect strong disapproval from their friends if they were themselves to try marijuana. This figure does decline with age. Among non-users aged 12 to 13, the percentage is 69, and among non-users aged 14-18, it falls to 54 percent.

Beliefs about consequences of regular marijuana usage (i.e., monthly or more frequent use) among non-users are generally more strongly anti-drug than their attitudes toward trial use. Ninety-eight percent of non-using 12- to 13-year-olds, and 95 percent of non-using 14- to 18-year-olds say "definitely not" when asked about their likelihood of using marijuana regularly in the next year. A majority of non-using youth aged 12 to 18 believe it very likely that regular use would lead them to damage their brains, "mess up" their lives, and do worse in school. Also, a majority of non-using youth aged 12 to 18 believe that regular use would be very unlikely to make them more creative and imaginative. However, regular marijuana use is not strongly disassociated from good times. Just 35 percent of youth aged 14 to 18 believe that marijuana use would be very unlikely to help them have a good time with their friends.

Not surprisingly, current occasional users of marijuana held sharply less critical views of the consequences of regular use. Nonetheless, around 55 percent of the 14- to 18-year-old occasional users said they were definitely not intending to start regular usage.

Parental Behaviors: Talk about Drugs, Monitoring, and Family Activities

Parents report that they already often engage in the behaviors that are the primary targets for the parent segment of the Media Campaign. However, they report much higher levels of these behaviors than do the independent reports of their children.

Parents say they are talking with their children about drugs. About 91 percent report having talked with their 9- to 18-year-old child at least once in the previous 6 months about drugs, and 77 percent report having talked at least twice. Children report fewer conversations overall. The gap increases with age as shown in Table ES-C. Among teens aged 16-18, just 48 percent report 2 or more conversations with their parents about drugs.

Table ES-C
Parent-child reports of conversation about drugs:
Percent who had two or more conversations in the past 6 months

 
Age of youth
Report
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
Parent
71.3
80.2
81.9
78.2
Child
62.7
59.2
58.6
48.4
Gap
8.6
21.0
23.3
29.8

Strikingly, more than 90 percent of the parents report talking with their 16- to 18-year-old children about the anti-drug ads (Table ES-D). However, only 21 percent of the children recalled a conversation about anti-drug ads.

Table ES-D
Parent-child reports of conversations about anti-drug ads:
Percent reporting at least one conversation in recent months

 
Age of youth
Report
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
Parent
50.5
63.3
93.3
92.8
Child
49.6
40.1
31.0
21.1
Gap
0.9
23.2
62.3
71.7

Parents say they are doing a good deal of monitoring of their children’s lives. Children often disagree with this assessment, but the two reports grow closer together as children age, as shown in Table ES-E. The gap narrows because parents report less monitoring as their children grow older.

Table ES-E
Percentages of parents and youth reports of monitoring

Report
Age of youth
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
Parent: I always or almost always know what my child is doing when away from home.
78.2
66.4
61.4
49.1
Youth: My parents always or almost always know what you are doing when I am away from home.
49.5
52.7
48.0
40.8
Gap
28.7
13.7
13.4
8.3

Almost all parents report they engage in fun activities with their children. Nearly all parents of 9- to 18-year-olds (90.5%) claimed to have done some home (81.7%) and/or out-of-home fun activity (76.4%) with their child in the past week. There are no parallel youth data for comparisons.

Parent Beliefs, Attitudes, and Intentions

In addition to asking parents about past conversations with their children about drugs, the NSPY questionnaire includes questions about intentions for future conversations, attitudes about conversation, perceived social expectations for them to have such conversations, and feelings of self-efficacy to have such conversations. Similarly, in addition to questions about past monitoring of their children, there are questions about intentions for future monitoring, attitudes about monitoring, and likely consequences of future monitoring.

The majority of parents expressed strong intentions to talk about drugs with their child as well as to monitor their children. This is consistent with their behaviors. There may be some room for movement on some specific types of monitoring behaviors or for talk about specific topics. These question arrays will be most interesting to analyze in association with exposure levels to advertising as will be done in the next report.

However, one interesting early finding shown in Table ES-F is that parents were not strongly convinced that their monitoring would affect their children’s likelihood of using drugs. Only 52 percent of parents of 12- to 13-year-olds strongly agreed that monitoring would "make it less likely my child will use any drug nearly every month." Moreover, they perceived obstacles and unpleasantness. Eighty-four percent of parents of youth aged 14 to 18 expressed at least some concern that their children would view close monitoring of the child’s daily activities as an invasion of privacy. Even among parents of children aged 9 to 11, only 25 percent strongly dismissed privacy concerns.

Table ES-F
Parental beliefs of consequences of monitoring

 
Age of youth
Parental belief about closely monitoring their child’s daily activities over the next 6 months:
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
I strongly agree that this would make it less likely that he/she will use any drug nearly every month
NA
51.8
44.7
39.1
I strongly disagree that this would make him/her feel like I am invading his/her privacy
24.6
18.0
16.9
14.7

Note: NA – This question not asked of parents of 9- to 11-year-olds.

Youth at Risk: Youth Intentions and Parental Concerns

Most parents think their children will not use drugs in the future as shown in Table ES-G. Among parents of 12- to 13-year-olds, 86 percent were adamant that their children would not use marijuana at all in the next year; that proportion declined to 70 percent among parents of 16- to 18-year-olds. Youth agree with this assessment at ages 12 through 15, but youth 16 to 18 are less certain that they will avoid all marijuana usage.

Table ES-G
Percentages of parents and youth reporting about any use of marijuana
by the youth in the next year

Report
Age of youth
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
Parent: It is very unlikely that my child will use marijuana even once or twice over the next 12 months.
NA
86.4
75.3
69.8
Youth: I definitely will not use marijuana (or hashish), even once or twice, over the next 12 months.
NA
87.5
75.3
59.2
Gap
NA
-1.1
0.0
10.6

Parents and youth were in better agreement about regular usage of marijuana than about any usage, as shown in Table ES-H. Interestingly, parents of youth aged 12 to 15 are a little less confident that their children will avoid regular marijuana usage than are the youth themselves. Parents tend to discount the possibility of any usage more strongly than do youth, but youth discount the possibility of regular usage more strongly.

Table ES-H
Percentages of parents and youth reporting about regular use of marijuana
by the youth in the next year

Report
Age of youth
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-18
Parent: It is very unlikely that my child will use marijuana nearly every month for the next 12 months.
95.0
90.7
83.4
76.1
Youth: I definitely will not use marijuana nearly every month for the next 12months.
NA
94.4
89.6
76.2
Gap
NA
-3.7
-6.2
-0.1

Media Purchases and Evidence about Exposure

Across its multiple media outlets, the Media Campaign reports that it purchased enough advertising time to achieve an expected exposure to 2.3 youth-targeted ads per week for the average youth and to 2.7 parent-targeted ads per week for the average parent over the 39-week period covered by this report (September 1999 through May 2000). Each group may have been exposed to ads targeted to the other group, as well. These statistics do not include "spill," which is defined to be youth viewing of ads targeted at parents or parent viewing of ads targeted at youth.

For adults, the primary media buys, as reported by Ogilvy, the media buyer for the Media Campaign, were in outdoor media (39%) network radio (28%), network television (20%), magazines (8%), and newspapers (5%), where the percentages refer to the percent of exposures that are projected to occur through each channel. For youth, the primary media buys, as reported by Ogilvy, were on network television (24%) and network radio (22%) with the rest on in-school television (16%), spot buys of radio (8%) and television (11%) and in magazines (10%). About half of the media buys for adults were on channels with the potential to reach most of the population. About two-thirds of the buys for youth were on channels with the potential to reach most of the population.

Recalled exposure results from NSPY:

  • Using general exposure measures, and summing across all media, 90 percent of parents and 93 percent of youth recalled exposure to one or more ads each month.
  • Sixty-eight percent of parents and 70 percent of youth recalled exposure to one or more ads each week.
  • The median recall by parents was 10 ads per month (i.e., at least half of parents saw 10 or more per month and at least half saw 10 or fewer). The median recall by youth was around 11 ads per month.

A second measure of exposure asked for recall of television and radio ads that were played for the respondent:

  • The median aided recall of specific TV ads by youth was 4 exposures in recent months. This is roughly equivalent to 0.5 exposures per week. Thirty-five percent reported weekly television ad exposure or more. Eighteen percent recalled none of the TV ads. Exposure of youth was thus fairly uneven.
  • The median aided recall of specific TV ads by parents was 3 exposures in recent months. This is roughly equivalent to 0.35 exposures per week. Twenty-five percent reported exposure once per week or more. One-third of the parents recalled none of the TV ads. Exposure of parents to TV advertising was thus lighter than for youth and very uneven.
  • The median aided recall of specific radio ads by parents was 0 exposures in recent months. Ten percent reported exposure once per week or more. Fifty-two percent of the parents recalled none of the radio ads. Exposure of parents to radio ads was thus minimal. The majority of parents either never heard the radio ads or heard them only rarely. Youth radio advertising largely consisted of the soundtracks of television ads and this did not permit an independent estimate of exposure to radio-specific advertising.
  • The NSPY measures of aided recall for specific ads correlate well with the Ogilvy data based on purchasing patterns and general media consumption. Ads that should have higher viewership levels based on Ogilvy data usually have higher NSPY exposure estimates. Also, the recall of real ads by youth was much higher than the recall of the "ringer" ads.

Respondent Reactions to Ads

  • Both parents and youth gave moderately favorable evaluations of the ads they recalled (around 1.0 on a scale from –2 to +2) with respect to power to attract attention, power to convince, and having content that was personally important.
  • Neither parents nor youth felt that the ads exaggerate the problem. Strikingly, even occasional users of marijuana aged 14 to 18 tended to disagree with the statement that the ads "exaggerate the problem."

The Internet

The data confirm that Internet use is very high among 12- to 18-year-olds and even among parents. But this does not translate into exposure to anti-drug information.

  • Visits among youth to sites where anti-drug information is to be found is still quite uncommon; 10 percent or less of youth have visited such sites even once in the past 6 months.
  • Visits to sites with pro-drug information are less common than to sites with anti-drug information among 12- to 13-year-olds.
  • Parents use the Internet less than their children and recall visits to anti-drug sites and to parenting-skill sites with less frequency than their children visited anti-drug sites.

Exposures to Other Drug Messages

Both youth and parent audiences receive messages about drugs from other sources besides Media Campaign paid advertising.

Most youth report receiving anti-drug education in school during the past year and in previous years. More than three-quarters of all youth report in-school drug education by the time they are 18, with 60 to 76 percent of all children 12 and older saying they attended such a program within the past year.

However, many fewer youth report that their involvement with extracurricular activities has led to anti-drug education. Only 12 percent have ever participated in anti-drug programs or discussions outside of school, and only 8 percent have participated in such programs within the past year.

Youth see and hear a good deal about drug use among young people in the mass media. More than half of all youth noticed media coverage about drug use among young people at least once a week.

Most older youth have conversations about drugs, and many of them have such conversations frequently. More than half of youth aged 12 to18 report having such conversations with parents or friends four or more times in the previous 6 months. The partners for such conversations shift sharply as youth mature with parents replaced by friends. Among 9- to 11-year-olds, 35 percent had four or more conversations with parents, but only 15 percent had four or more conversations with friends. Among 16- to 18-year-olds these numbers are reversed: 22 percent had four or more conversations with parents, but 46 percent had that many conversations with friends.

In the course of conversation about drug use, young people of all ages discuss negative things about drugs. But, many older youth also speak positively about drugs. For 12- to 13-year-olds, conversations with the theme "marijuana use isn’t so bad" occurred for only 10 percent of the respondents, at about one-fifth the rate as conversations about "bad things that happen if you use drugs." Among 16- to 18-year-olds the pro-marijuana conversations are reported by 32 percent of the respondents, about three-fifths as often as discussions of the bad things that can happen if you use drugs.

Parents report high basic awareness of anti-drug activities taking place in their communities. For example, more than 80 percent know at least a little about anti-drug programs in schools or community centers. Parents, like their children, often see drug themes presented in the media. More than 90 percent of parents report at least monthly exposure and 65 percent report weekly exposure to at least one media source dealing with the issues of youth and drugs.

Fewer than half of parents report having attended drug prevention or parent effectiveness programs. Twenty-six percent reported attendance at a drug abuse prevention activity in the previous 6 months. About the same number (29%) said they attended a parent effectiveness program in the previous year.

Key Findings and Future Reports

This first semi-annual report from NSPY describes the Media Campaign, provides some measures of exposure to Campaign advertising over the first 9 months of Phase III, and has set a baseline for cognitive parent and youth attributes and for parent and youth behavior.

Most youth express negative attitudes and negative beliefs about the consequences of marijuana use, both with regard to trial use, and more strongly about regular use. Older youth tend to have less consistently negative attitudes. Youth tend to disbelieve the gateway theory that marijuana usage will lead to usage of harder drugs. Parents say that they talk about drug use with and that they monitor their children. They are not altogether convinced that monitoring protects against drug use. Parents report more frequent conversations and monitoring behavior than do their children. New estimates of youth usage of marijuana and inhalants have been presented. Regular inhalant usage is rare. The marijuana estimates are generally consistent with estimates from NHSDA.

Most parents and youth have seen at least some of the ads, with one estimate suggesting both audiences are exposed to 2 or 3 ads per week across all media. Another approach puts the estimate for television advertising alone per week at 0.5 exposures for youth and 0.3 for parents. Some parents and youth have seen the ads much more often than other parents and youth. The parent radio Media Campaign has low awareness. Initial respondent reactions to the TV ads are generally favorable. Few youth or parents report exposure to anti-drug web sites on the Internet.

No inferences about the effectiveness of the Media Campaign have been drawn in this report. Given that Phase III of the Media Campaign was only 9 months old by the end of Wave 1 data collection for NSPY, such inferences would be premature. Also, the most telling measurements have not yet been made. There will be a series of six more semi-annual reports over the next few years, culminating in a final report in March 2004.

Some of the topics for future reports include the following:

  • Continued examination of population exposure to the components of the Media Campaign. Additional analyses of the exposure of African American and Hispanic population exposure to advertising;
  • Change in population averages for outcomes, as well as changes for subgroups of the population at particular risk for marijuana use;
  • The contemporaneous association of exposure with outcomes, while controlling for the confounding effects of pre-existing conditions;
  • Contemporaneous association of outcomes with exposure to subcomponents of the Media Campaign while controlling for the confounding effects of pre-existing conditions;
  • Patterns of growth and change in outcomes at the individual level and the prospective association of both initial and cumulative exposure with subsequent growth and change;
  • Evidence that patterns of contemporaneous or prospective associations between exposure and outcomes differ among important subgroups of the population; and
  • Indirect effects of the Media Campaign on youth through parents, friends, and institutions.

The complete report can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format:



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