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NIDA. (2010, September 28). It’s Classic!. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
September 28 2010
PET scans showing Cocaine user next to control

“This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

Sound familiar? For some of our readers, maybe not. This line actually dates back to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s 1987 classic television public service campaign. Perhaps even more memorable than the slogan was the imagery that accompanied it—a sizzling egg in a hot frying pan. Check out the video and see for yourself.

When it launched in the late 1980s, this classic public service campaign challenged the idea that drugs’ effects were temporary. The campaign message that drug addiction changes people’s brains and shatters people’s lives would soon start to take hold.

Brain Scans Replace Fried Eggs

Today, we don’t have to use a frying egg to demonstrate what a “brain on drugs” might look like. Through the use of brain-imaging technology, science can show us a real picture of how drug use affects the brain. By measuring the amount of glucose in a particular area of the brain, a brain scan (called positron emission tomography) can tell how active the brain is.

Take a look at the “control” scan on the left, which is the brain of a normal person. Look at all the red—this means that these regions of the brain are highly active since red represents glucose. The right scan is taken from someone who is on cocaine. What do you notice? A lot less red, right?, which means less activity. Reduced glucose can affect many brain functions, such as decision-making, memory, and concentration.

“This is your brain on drugs” just got a whole new meaning.