St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Ads Target Ecstasy / Meth

10 June, 2003

Many teens in the St. Louis area don't think Ecstasy and methamphetamine can hurt them - and many parents don't know their teens are taking the drugs, according to a study to be issued today.

With both drugs increasingly available here, conditions are right for an epidemic, says the Partnership for a Drug Free America, which sponsored the study. Today, the Partnership will launch an ad campaign to show families the dark side of meth and Ecstasy, two drugs that weren't in the public eye when most teens' parents were teens.

The ads will run for two years here and in Phoenix as test markets. The campaign also aims to nudge the St. Louis media to cover the harm that is caused by the drugs. More than a dozen local pediatricians have volunteered to go on radio and TV to talk about it.

St. Louis was chosen for the campaign by virtue of being in Missouri, by far the No. 1 meth producing state in the United States. Coveted as euphoric and stimulating, meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected. Many experts consider it more addictive and toxic than crack cocaine.

Like the Partnership's previous ads, some of the new ones will address parents and some teens. Recent ads from the Partnership have taken a political bent. "Last weekend I washed my car, hung out with my friends and helped murder a family in Colombia," intoned one.

But the ones aimed at St. Louis will focus strictly on the drugs' negative effects.

"The message in the ads is methamphetamines can kill, Ecstasy can kill," said Dr. Todd Vedder, a pediatrician in Fenton who is involved with the campaign. "It's approaching it from the health risks rather than a convoluted terrorist tie-in."

After the first and second year of the campaign, the Partnership will poll teens and parents once more to see if the message got through.

One obstacle for the anti-drug effort is Ecstasy's reputation as a great high with few risks. The survey indicates even parents saw few health consequences from taking the psychedelic amphetamine.

Ecstasy, almost always taken as a pill, is commonly associated with raves, all-night parties featuring fast-beating electronic music and laser lights. It is thought that parents permit their children to attend because the events are billed as alcohol-free.

St. Louis County Police Detective John Wall knows that all too well. "If you have a teenager who says he's going to a party with no drinking, no alcohol, just dancing and lights, what are you going to think?"

What parents and teens might not know is that science is increasingly proving Ecstasy to be addictive and potentially lethal, said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership.

The study surveyed 300 teens at five area malls - Crestwood, South County and Mid-Rivers malls in Missouri and Alton Square and St. Clair Square in Illinois - and 300 parents chosen randomly from existing phone survey lists. It has a margin of error of 5.7 percent.

The study found:

  • 3 percent of teens said they had used meth, and 8 percent said they had used Ecstasy.
  • But just 1 percent of parents said they believed their teen used meth and 1 percent Ecstasy.
  • 18 percent of teens said they had been offered meth, and 32 percent said they had been offered Ecstasy.
  • Half of teens said they knew someone who used Ecstasy, and 40 percent said they knew someone who used meth.
  • 56 percent of parents thought it was likely that teens were using Ecstasy or meth nationally, but less than 20 percent thought teens were doing those drugs in their neighborhood.

The increasing availability of the drugs and the report's findings "tell us one thing," Pasierb said. "Teenagers in this region are facing a serious health threat. We must do everything we can to head this off."

Copyright: © 2003 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Jeremy Kohler

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