ONDCP counters GAO criticism of 'Anti-Drug' campaign

WASHINGTON: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said a new survey of US drug use refutes a recently released Congressional study claiming ONDCP ad and PR efforts for its finished "Anti-Drug" campaign have been ineffective.

WASHINGTON: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said a new survey of US drug use refutes a recently released Congressional study claiming ONDCP ad and PR efforts for its finished "Anti-Drug" campaign have been ineffective.

The "Anti-Drug" campaign, which ran from 1998 to 2004, featured dramatic situations where marijuana use aided terrorism funding and led to promiscuous sex. The new ONDCP campaign, "Above the Influence," is intended to appeal to skeptical, media-savvy teens. For the benefit of parents seeking information on teen drug use, the ONDCP continues to maintain the Web site for its Anti-Drug campaign.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report last month found that the government contractor hired by the ONDCP, in an interagency agreement with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to measure results of the campaign credibly concluded that awareness of the ONDCP's anti-drug efforts may have increased between 2002 and 2004 - the period of the study - but that the campaign did not appear to foster disapproval of drug use, and "may even have promoted perceptions among exposed youths that others' drug use was normal," the GAO report stated.

Tom Riley, ONDCP public affairs director, pointed to a survey release Sept. 7 by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that found illicit drug use by 12-17 year olds is down roughly 15 percent between 2002 and 2005.

He also said that the contractor's evaluation did not use methods commonly used in the advertising world to measure results, which led the ONDCP to cancel the contract in 2004.

"Even if we completely agreed with the findings and methodology, it would be irrelevant to [our] current campaign," Riley said.

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