The 10 most shocking anti-drug campaigns

Whether it is for their shocking use of images or the cleverness of their message, anti-drugs campaigns generally have some kind of effect on us. Some make you laugh, while others bring you face to face with the realities of addiction. This slideshow will take a look the 10 most striking anti-drug campaigns to have been used across the world.

The influence of methamphetamine

The Meth Project, a group in the United States dedicated to tackling the use of methamphetamine (also known as Crystal Meth), launched this bold poster campaign to spread their message about the highly addictive nature of the drug. The image shows an elderly man bleeding and lying on the floor, while two young men empty his pockets and steal his television. The caption reads: “Beating an old man for money isn’t normal. But on meth it is.” The poster also features the tagline: "Meth not even once.”

Selling sex for drugs

As part of the same campaign from the Meth Project, this poster shows an addict selling her body in order to buy more drugs. The caption reads: “15 bucks for sex isn’t normal. But on meth it is.” The poster succeeds in getting the message across that addiction to methamphetamine can lead to you ending up in squalid and degrading situations.

Amy Winehouse, the bad example

A month after the death of British singer Amy Winehouse, the youth branch of a Swiss right-wing political party sparked outrage by using her image in an online anti-drugs campaign. The picture of the singer looking worse for wear was accompanied by a caption which translates as: “No to the decriminalisation of drugs.” Winehouse, who had admitted battling addictions to drugs, died from alcohol poisoning in July, 2011.

Before and after shots

The Metropolitan Police used hard-hitting images of the negative effects that illegal substances, such as methamphetamine, can have on your looks to raise awareness of drug dealing. The campaign showed photographs of women before and after drugs had taken hold of their lives. The shocking deterioration in the appearance of the women was clear to see. The images were used together with the slogan: "Don’t let drug dealers change the face of your neighbourhood." The posters were intended to shock people into reporting suspected drug dealers to the police.

Drugs cocktails

The website (currently inactive) was launched in the United States to advise parents on drugs issues concerning their children. In one campaign, the group focused on the dangers of youngsters mixing different drugs. The poster used video game culture to put across its message. The hand of a collapsed teenager is shown next to some drugs and a syringe and the slogan says: “Game Overdose.” The poster also featured the tagline: “Don’t play with drugs, you will not have a second life.”

Wrong turn

The Meth Project released another set of inventive posters in 2005 using the slogan "before meth.” The organisation played with the issue of how people are categorised before and after they become involved in drug abuse. One of the posters showed a framed photograph of a young girl next to the caption: "Before meth I had a daughter. Now I have a prostitute.” This was another campaign which sought to demonstrate how drugs can completely change the lives of those who become addicts.

Parallel lives

Advertising agency McCann Digital used our obsession with social media to warn young people about the effects drugs can have on their lives. The firm came up with the idea of using Facebook’s timeline as the basis for a series of online posters charting the parallel lives of fictional character Adam Barak. In one reality, Adam becomes addicted to drugs and ends up being dumped by his girlfriend and sleeping rough in the streets. In the other reality, Adam stays clean and has fun with his girlfriend and friends. The campaign, which shows both potential lives in split screen, was commissioned by Israel’s Anti-Drug Authority.

The effect on the family

In Chile, authorities decided to put the focus on the effects that drug addiction has on the user’s family. One poster contained the dramatic image of a baby crawling through a large amount of cocaine. The image was backed up with the message: “Drugs not only affect the user, they also affect their family.”

Related: The Effects of Heroin & Methadone on Unborn Babies

The power of vanity

In the 1980s, the British Government produced a memorable campaign to combat heroin abuse amongst young people. Attempting to capitalise on most young people’s obsession with looking good, the campaign focused on the negative effects that taking the drug can have on a user’s appearance. The posters showed a young woman looking gaunt with blotchy skin. The slogan reads: “Skin care by heroin.”

Related: The weirdest contraband ever seized by customs

Life consuming

Finnish authorities sought to make people think about the impact of drug abuse on their family and work lives with this campaign in 2006. The words family and career were spelt out in white powder on a black background to simulate a cocaine user snorting them through a rolled up €20 note. The message was that drugs will eventually end up damaging all aspects of your life.

Related: The world's drug capitals

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About the Author

Since 2008, Belén Papa Orfano has worked as a journalist on the website of one of the most important economic journals of Argentina, "Ámbito Financiero." She writes articles about local politics, economics and arts. Previously, she worked for the cultural magazine "Gataflora."