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graphic



Famous fried eggs

Students debate effectiveness, accuracy
of well-known anti-drug commercial

story.fried.eggs.jpg
An ad campaign to deter drug use used the analogy of eggs being fried to show the negative effects on the brain  

December 6, 2000
Web posted at: 3:42 PM EST (2042 GMT)


In this story:

'A scare tactic'

Effect on brain chemistry?

'Good persuasive information'

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN Student Bureau) -- While few people have seen a brain damaged by drugs, millions have seen the TV commercial with fried eggs -- "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs" -- that affected at least two generations' views on the dangers of drug use.

America's advertising community has recognized the "brain on drugs" advertisement as one of the most influential ads of all time, and experts said the analogy drawn in the commercial is legitimate. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America captured the public eye in 1987 with this ad campaign designed to discourage drug use among Americans.

But some students who spent their teen years watching the commercial said that its premise was fictional.

Taia Lubitz, a student at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the original "brain on drugs" commercial was not accurate.

"When I saw people that were on the high school honor roll smoking pot, I realized that the commercial's message was false," said Lubitz, 21, who was raised in Encinitas, California. "I remember thinking, 'When are their brains going to fry?' "

'A scare tactic'

Lubitz said the ad didn't discourage her from experimenting with drugs -- instead it stirred her curiosity.

"The ad wasn't helpful in deterring me from using drugs. I don't think that scare tactics ever work in preventing kids from doing anything," Lubitz said. "I think that a scare tactic acts as more of a dare than it does actually scare kids away from using drugs."

 VIDEO
CNN Student Bureau's Keli Meadows looks at whether the Partnership for a Drug-Free America campaign has been effective

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(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)
 
 AUDIO AND VIDEO
Radio and television ads warn of the effects of drugs on the brain
 

Lubitz said that she does not believe that experimenting with marijuana can damage the brain.

"If you use drugs to an excess, then you are abusing your brain," Lubitz said. "But I don't feel that experimentation is abuse. I don't think that one or two times can hurt."

But Sepideh Modrek, also a student on the Berkeley campus, disagrees.

"The fried egg commercial really scared me when I was in high school. I remember picturing that egg in the frying pan and thinking that it wasn't worth it," said Modrek, 21, a Los Angeles native. "Drugs weren't hidden. The opportunities were there -- I mean they still are, but I don't take them."

Effect on brain chemistry?

Although Modrek said the ad was effective to her, she said that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America could persuade teens not to use drugs in other ways. Modrek said that objectively portraying the short-term effects that drugs have on the brain would deter many teens from using drugs.

"I have read reports about how marijuana messes with your brain chemistry. It induces dopamine and causes a chemical imbalance," Modrek said. "A chemical imbalance can cause someone to suffer from depression.

"We don't know our brain chemistry, which means we can't know our limitations. This means that smoking marijuana one or two times can actually have an effect."

'Good persuasive information'

Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center in Tennessee, said that the "brain on drugs" commercial gives teens a perfect picture of what drugs can do to their brains.

"I think that (commercial) is a beautiful and accurate description of my patients," Martin said.

Martin conducts research on topics related to addiction. He said that people who smoke marijuana oftentimes suffer from amotivational syndrome and don't know it. Amotivational syndrome is defined as a condition in which a person loses ambition or motivation to complete tasks that he or she would normally like to have completed.

"Usually when someone has a problem with drugs, the last person to notice it is the drug user," Martin said. "When people smoke marijuana, it's not totally harmonious. Amotivational syndrome causes a change in the chemistry of the brain."

Howard Simon, assistant director of public affairs for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said he believes the long-running ad campaign got the message across.

"People will not immediately say that advertising has an impact on them, but it is apparent that it gets through and that is how we feel about the anti-drug ads."

Simon said that the commercial was not only effective but also was well-recognized. "TV Guide named it one of the top 100 ads of all time ... ," he said. "Ultimately it provided good persuasive information to try and change attitudes about drug behavior."

Simon said that the whole advertising model is different when you're trying to turn people away from a product rather than sell it to them -- which makes the process more difficult and the positive recognition more satisfying.

"In our case we are trying to unsell a product, but the basic premise is the same. ... You can't expect for people to behave differently if they don't think differently," Simon said.

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RELATED STORIES:
Teen critics pan national anti-drug ads
McCaffrey: Anti-drug campaign's success greater than expected
This is your brain on drugs ...

RELATED SITES:
National Families in Action
Partnership for Drug-Free America

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