Most people who know me know that I am a passionate supporter of risk and harm minimisation. This issue in particular has been frustrating me for a while:
Every time I see a shock-advertisement campaign against cigarettes and drugs, I get so exasperated! It is powerful, important and highly effective advertising tool to tackle dangerous driving and I totally support it’s use for that purpose. But applying the same tool to substance abuse and especially addiction, is like trying to hammer a sheet of glass to a wall. It is not just ineffective, it is actively harmful and completely inappropriate!
Many (I’m not experienced enough to say with confidence, but I would suspect that even most) rehabilitation clinics use positive reinforcement, goals, incentives and rewards. They discourage blame, guilt and shock tactics because it implies judgement and people tend to stop listening and shut down when they are feeling judged, which exacerbates addictive behaviour in the obvious and very common form of escapism.
I have only recently seen the “Every cigarette you don’t smoke” campaign and I think it is a really positive start, but there is no equivalent for illegal substances and it would be just as (if not more) effective for that demographic.
Rather than feeling judged by society and less able to seek help without fear of severe prejudice, social exclusion and even legal repercussions because of over usage of prevention tactics with negative reinforcement and a lack of educational, approachable and widely advertised media, people struggling with addiction to illegal substances would be able to be seen as real people with valid and challenging problems. Encouraged to live healthier lifestyles and seek provided help with goals in overcoming addiction.
If the advertising companies hired to tackle these problems went to the experts in these fields instead of pandering to conservative government ideals and ingrained social stigma, they would be able to produce informed and effective campaigns that will educate the general public and actively impact the minds of people who take illegal substances to promote harm reduction, better health and recovery from drug addiction.
Ok, done ranting now. Feeling much better. :)