Drug rehab for young adults or a singing dog in a trench coat? Which sophisticated and far-reaching option do you think Reaganite America took in the 1980s? Sadly you are correct!
Users are Losers – who says so? A singing dog in a trench coat that’s who!
The ‘Users are Losers’ anti-drug campaign was an incredibly inept attempt to warn America’s kids off drug use. A Nancy Reagan moral crusade it began in 1987. Sponsored by the “American National Crime Prevention Council” it featured ‘McGruff the Crime Dog’ and was aimed primarily at teens through poster advertisements, comic book ads and a singing dog.
The campaign began in 1985 with the launch of its own anthem. McGruff the trench coat wearing bloodhound featured on innumerable Saturday morning kids shows. Playing “cat house” jazz piano he sanctioned kids to rat out any friends who took drugs. He then compassionately urged them to tell any curious experimenter they were “losers”!
Americas War on Drugs. Yes to comic books. No to drug rehab for young adults
The American Government invented the term “War on Drugs”. In 1971 Richard Nixon formally declared a “war on drugs” that would be directed toward eradication, interdiction, and incarceration. Despite this, it remains third in the world for substance abuse.
Today, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the War on Drugs, estimates that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives. They also claim however it wastes much of it through poor focus. Particularly on drug rehab for young adults. It continues to have a confused and inconsistent attitude to treatment. While addiction and abuse are undoubtedly major problems in the USA, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that as many as 90 per cent of people who most need drug rehab do not receive it.
More specifically it has no free drug rehab for young adults programme. Instead, successive governments seem content to rely on cheap and immediate gimmicks to alarm kids, rather than funding expensive treatment and convalescence once they are addicted.
Worst Anti-Drug Posters ever?
This confused and ill-educated approach reached its zenith with the “Users are Losers” campaign. At its peak in 1987, the campaign produced a series of ridiculously ill-judged comic book ads which seemed to base its strategy solely on trying to frighten kids off narcotics. There was no attempt to educate or inform. The style of graphic and artwork was startlingly schizoid. For reasons known only to the “Ad Council,” they all highlighted a teenager trembling in a wooden crate. Huh?
The text was even worse. Promoting risible 1950’s homilies it urged kids who wanted to know about drugs to “ask a Parent or Minister”. (But sir what if I am Jewish or a Muslim?). Most ridiculously of all, why not ask a “Police officer”? Many a Bronx NYPD officer must have spent his Saturday mornings hoping a gang of street urchins would stroll up and interrogate him on the potential dangers of opiate abuse! It ended with perhaps one of the most confusing anti-drug slogans ever: “The Human brain is made for thinking not fumigating Be wise, not weird!”
Needless to say, the campaign was an abject flop. 1980’s teenagers were a generation far too savvy and sophisticated to be influenced by this preachy, outdated campaign, Remember kids. Just say No!
It is not all bad news being a kid in America. For my blog on one of the most beautiful and underrated American institutions read http://www.englishmanlovesamerica.com/american-school-bus-engineering/