William D. Crano
Claremont Graduate University
The backstory of the 2000 Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology, the 17th such meeting, began in 1997, when at the call of the President and both houses of Congress the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) launched the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The Campaign is one of the country's most ambitious social intervention programs, and certainly one of the most massive and expensive drug-abuse prevention efforts. Using the mass media, the ONDCP is attempting to reach as many youth as possible, across the length and breadth of the land, along with their parents, to inform them of the dangers of drug abuse and encourage and facilitate their rejection of illicit drugs.
The need for an ameliorative campaign of this kind became increasingly evident as the 1990s progressed. In the prior decade, drug use by adolescents had declined substantially, and more or less steadily (Monitoring the Future, 1997). In 1991, however, the decline reversed itself, and drug use began to rise—and continued to do so into the late 1990s. Even more worrisome was the finding that upsurge in drug use was not confined to advanced adolescents—eighth graders were showing the same pattern as their older brothers and sisters. Obviously, something had to be done, but the most optimal response to this dangerous predicament was not entirely obvious. To be sure, science has identified many factors associated with adolescent drug use, but clear causal linkages between these factors and usage have yet to be established. In some ways, the decline in usage evident in the 1980s inadvertently might have retarded scientific progress. When things are going well, there is little motivation to discover what to do if the tide shifts. As the Monitoring the Future (1997) report showed, drug usage declined steadily in the 1980s.