ABC Dedicates Month of March to Spreading Drug Abuse Message

Article excerpt

On Saturday, ABC begins a month-long March Against Drugs.

The target audience is parents. And the goal is to encourage

them to talk with their children about drugs.

This major public service campaign is more than the usual lip

service TV often gives to social problems. During the entire

month, the message that drug use has risks will appear in public

service announcements every network hour, and in stories on such

news series as World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. In

addition, prime-time and daytime series will incorporate plots

with anti-drug messages.

Why the push? ABC executives say they're worried about the

startling rise in teen drug use.

"In the late '80s, drug use by teens and kids declined

substantially in this country, in part because of media efforts

to portray the damages," said ABC president David Westin in a

presentation to reporters in Los Angeles. "In recent years,

however, we've not paid as much attention to this critical

problem, in part because of a mistaken belief that we were past

the problem."

Research suggests reaching parents first gets results. One ABC

study shows kids are half as likely to use drugs if an adult

talks to them about the risks.

"Maybe if we start talking, so will parents," Westin said.

Here are the trends, according to ABC.

After years of steady declines of illegal drug use among teens,

over the past three years more kids are using more illegal drugs

more frequently, including marijuana, stimulants and even

heroin.

Changing attitudes are the reason. When kids see drugs as more

risky, more harmful and more socially unacceptable, fewer use

them.

Media leadership can help reverse this trend with stories about

the dangers of drug usage.

Considered crucial are stories, programs and movies that avoid

glamorizing and normalizing drug use.

Members of the media aren't the only culprits when it comes to

kids hearing less about the dangers of drugs, according to Lloyd

D. Johnson of the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future

Program. Schools are receiving less federal funding for drug

abuse prevention. And parents appear to be talking less about

drugs to their children.

To help change that, ABC is calling March 30 ABC-D-Day. The

network will broadcast an ABC News Town Hall meeting that Sunday

night to focus on results of the campaign. And included will be

a period of silence during which parents across the country will

be urged to begin a discussion with their children about drugs.

Silence is acceptance, Westin said. "We want to change some

attitudes, but also change some behavior in our country."

Coincidentally, one prime-time show on another network is

already telling a dramatic cautionary tale about the hazards of

addiction. Party of Five (9 p.m. Wednesdays, Fox) has slowly

chronicled the descent of Bailey (played by Scott Wolf) into

alcoholism.

Alcoholism is not a disease easily controlled or readily

acknowledged, said executive producers Chris Keyser and Amy

Lippman. Knowing that, they have set out to tell the story of a

young man's alcoholism over time.

"We wanted to show the reasons that cause a young drinker to

fail to see his growing problem, and how possible it is for a

concerned family to miss the signs as well. …