Ad campaign targets notion of ‘love drug’
by USA TODAY
Copyright: USA TODAY
A national advertising campaign that debuts today will try to scrape the shiny, happy gloss from the Ecstasy drug craze.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s first-ever focus on Ecstasy, as seen through a series of public service advertisements on TV and in newspapers, represents a watershed moment in the national response to the club drug. Experts say Ecstasy is taking root in youth culture and an aggressive, concerted campaign is needed to unsell the drug to a growing number of captivated youth.
The ads will confront the notions of Ecstasy as a harmless ”love drug” whose benefits far outweigh the risks.
One ad targeted at parents portrays a grieving father, Jim Heird, whose daughter, Danielle, 21, of Las Vegas, died the third time she used Ecstasy.
”I would’ve given anything for some warning signs. I would have moved. I would have locked her up. I don’t care,” Heird says in the commercial. ”A parent’s not supposed to survive their children. It’s not the scheme of things.”
In another ad, a coroner reads Danielle Heird’s autopsy report while a photo collage of a happy, healthy Danielle crosses the screen.
One of a second set of commercials, which is aimed at teenagers, depicts a dance rave in which a girl on Ecstasy lies crumpled on the floor while her friends continue dancing around her. Another ad depicts a house party where kids high on Ecstasy make out and massage one another. When one boy becomes ill and crawls into a bathroom, a friend merely shuts the bathroom door. The tag lines at the end of each ad read, ”Ecstasy: Where’s the love?”
The drug, 3-4 methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, or MDMA, was initially used in psychotherapy. It emerged as a recreational drug on college campuses in the mid-1980s, says Glen Hanson, acting director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md. It spread through the rave party scene in the early 1990s.
”It’s not just a little fad. It’s a very disturbing trend,” says Mitchell Rosenthal, president of the Phoenix House Foundation, the nation’s largest drug-treatment provider.
In a new survey of teen drug use, the partnership found that teens view the drug as only slightly more dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants. Drug experts worry Ecstasy will spread like cocaine did in the late 1970s and early 1980s, spawning a generation of addicts faster than health officials could issue warnings.
”By then, we were so deep in the well, it took a long time to climb back out,” says Stephen Pasierb, president of the partnership. It wasn’t until college basketball star Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose that teens began to see the scary side of cocaine use, Pasierb says.
Now, as with cocaine, teens seem unaware or unimpressed by the growing body of scientific evidence that Ecstasy is dangerous.
Scientists have studied extensively Ecstasy’s effect on laboratory animals. Human clinical studies are underway, says George Ricaurte, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.