New National Anti-Drug Campaign Launches in Portland with Drug Czar

In the Oregonian today from education reporter Betsy Hammond….A new White House-backed teen drug prevention, designed in part by Portland high school students, has hit screens and the streets across the Portland area and will soon go nationwide.

The campaign, officially launched by White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske in the Bronx on Monday and at Portland’s Wilson High on Tuesday, will be very different from the one that preceded it.

Dubbed “Above the Influence,” it is designed to give teens the chance to talk and interact about the positive influences that keep them above drug and alcohol use and ways to counter the negative influences that tempt them in that direction.

Already, the distinctive upward-pointing arrow of the campaign has been plastered on billboards, bus shelters and benches around the Portland area. Look for it on TV, on video panels at Lloyd Center and on your smart phone, your FaceBook page and in other new media displays.

The previous edition of the teen anti-drug public relations campaign was a TV-only, anti-marijuana message designed by adults with a uniform national message.

The new campaign, backed with a $45 million yearly budget, will be better, broader and more up to date, said Bob Dennison, director of the national youth campaign.

He and advertising agency officials have talked with thousands of teens about which messages work — and which don’t.

The campaign prominently features young voices and is broadly directed against underage drinking, prescription drug abuse and marijuana and will show up on social media platforms and local spots like the bus shelters as well as TV, he said.

Chloe Jones, 17, who graduates tonight from Wilson, thinks seeing the ubiquitous “Above the Influence” billboards and posters around town will help teens avoid drinking and drug use. “Just seeing that name gets the buzz going” about how appealing it can be to be above bad influences and above using drugs and alcohol, she said.

Jones, who struggled with addiction beginning in middle school but has been clean and sober since sophomore year, helped make a local Above the Influence video and was flown to Washington, D.C., to help advise federal officials and ad agency executives on the campaign.

Teens with a strong sense of self and big plans for the future don’t want to use drugs or get drunk, she says. Seeing the ads and going to the abovetheinfluence.com website will help teens feel connected to others who feel that way, too, she predicts.

“Seeing it reminds people that there are other people like them who don’t use,” Jones said. “It’s important to have a connection to other people who don’t use so, even if (some other) people think you’re lame, it’s cool.”

Kerlikowske, who spent nine years as Seattle’s police chief before becoming national drug czar a year ago, said the message he heard from a gathering of two dozen Multnomah County teens Tuesday “resonated well,” he said.

“Adults have a presumption that everybody in high school is doing drugs,” he said. “In fact, the vast majority of kids aren’t involved in those kids of activities.” ….Betsy Hammond

PS  Cloe is a member of the Oregon Partnership Youth Advisory Councilan OP YouthLine volunteer, and drug prevention advocate.

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