5 Ridiculous Anti-Drugs Posters

anti-drugs ads

Anti-drugs ads have always had a tendency to veer toward the extreme, or indeed the downright ridiculous. 

In an effort to "inform" and "educate" the general public about the myriad harms associated with illicit drug use certain anti-drug posters have become infamous, though not for their success in deterring people. The emphasis on deploying scare mongering tactics (shockingly) does little to engage people and thus bring down levels of use. If anything, many of the below pieces only serve to further alienate people while reinforcing the stigma associated with drug use.

Here is just a small selection of anti-drugs posters from over the years. Who would have thought that drug use would continue in the light of these?

During the mid-1980s, the controversial “Heroin Screws You Up” campaign was rolled out across the UK in an effort to counteract the surge of heroin use during that period.                                              

The emphasis placed in this piece on how heroin can have an adverse impact on physical appearance seems to be somewhat missing the point; threatening a heroin user with poor skin is unlikely to solve the potential issue of heroin dependency, and therefore, this campaign is unlikely to have any impact with those it is supposedly targeting. 

Indeed, heroin use rose throughout the 1990s in the UK, highlighting what an utter failure this campaign was. 





The Montana Meth Project (MMP) probably takes the award here for most offensive anti-drug advertisement. Relying on aggressive billboard, TV and Internet ads, the MMP has released posters highlighting how methamphetamine could lead you to kill your mother (“My mom knows I’d never hurt her. Then she got in the way”) as well as murder an elderly man (“Beating an old man to death isn’t normal. But on meth it is”).

The above billboard ad was deemed so controversial, however, that is was pulled from the group's campaign shortly after being launched in 2008. 

This 1936 anti-marijuana movie poster is indicative of the hysteria around cannabis during this period, particularly in the US.

The alleged causation of “crime”, “despair”, “hate” and “misery,” from smoking marijuana may indeed be a little off-putting to some. But, some of the side effects listed such as “wild parties”, “unleashed passions” and “lust” could well motivate potential users. This seems like mixed messaging, no?






Another from the UK. This was rolled out in London in 2004 in an effort to encourage people to report drug dealers.

Interestingly, the campaign uses the now infamous snapshots of an American woman -- Roseanne Holland -- taken over an eight year period. 

It's nice how London's Metropolitan Police emphasize catching the dealer in such a scenario, rather than trying to get help for the person suffering from serious drug misuse.




The final ad comes from Above the Influence, formerly a project of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

It's one thing to suggest that illicit narcotics may be laced with rat poison, but doing it in such a roundabout way while portraying drug users as vermin is an absurd tactic.

The only thing likely to be gained from this move -- like many of the above -- is further marginalizing and alienating the target population of these warnings. 

Above the Influence is now a program of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Don't expect these ads to get any less stupid in the future.