Houston Pilot City for Drug Treatment Campaign

Houston is the pilot city for a one-year drug addiction treatment campaign. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America found the campaign successful enough to roll it out to five other cities. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more on teh tactical shift from a drug prevention to and addiction treatment message.

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Nearly 20 years ago the Partnership for a Drug-Free America made advertising history with its "This is your brain; this is your brain on drugs" campaign. Last year, the partnership decided it was time to switch gears from a drug-prevention model to a message about seeking treatment. Listen to one of the pilot spots they ran in Houston.

"'Be better if I had cancer. Then you wouldn't tell me what I'm going through is just a phase. You wouldn't see my condition as a lack of willpower, but the disease that it truly is. There'd be walks, telethons, campaigns to raise funds to end it. If I had cancer, you'd understand I need treatment. Not a lecture.' (Announcer) 'Drug addiction is a disease. When you treat it that way, people can get better.'"

The radio spots directed listeners to a website. TV and print ads also included a hotline for people seeking treatment. Becky Vance is the partnership's regional manager for Houston. She says there are half a million people in the Houston area who have a drug addiction and need treatment.

"What we wanted to do is really change people's attitudes and prompt them to get help for addiction and let them know it's a treatable disease. And when you treat it, people get better because unbelievably there are still people who think -- you know you go away to treatment and you come back one time you're done, you're fixed forever. And so we knew we needed to change -- you know -- people's attitudes and increase their understanding that addiction is a chronic, but treatable illness."

Houston and Cincinnati were chosen as the two cities to test the campaign. The Houston ads connected people directly with the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. Mel Taylor is the CEO and says the council received an average of 60 calls per month as a direct result of the campaign.

"That's the direct measurement. What we don't know is how many people heard it, see it, think about it, wait a few days and then make the call. Or they decide they need help and so they get help somewhere else. What we know statistically, is that when information is out there in the community about addiction, that people tend to get help more often."

One of the key decisions made by the Partnership is future national campaigns will address the full spectrum of the drug problem, from prevention, intervention, treatment to recovery. There's more information about drug addiction and treatment on our website, kuhf dot org. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...