Not exactly an accurate reflection -

Not exactly an accurate reflection

Critics slam the Tories’ new anti-drug campaign

Not exactly an accurate reflection

Government video of

There’s no denying the federal government’s new anti-drug TV ad tells a disturbing story. A freshly scrubbed adolescent in her well-appointed bedroom looks like she might be about to relax with a couple of Justin Bieber tunes. Instead, an eerie soundtrack starts up. “One, two, kicked out of school,” sings a hollow, girlish voice straight out of a horror-movie trailer. “Three, four, snort some more.” Soon she’s trashing the room, then randomly snipping off some of her own hair, and finally scratching at the angry needle marks on her forearm. “Five, six, need my fix.” It’s a relief when the spooky carousel music stops and a calming adult narrator advises kids to check out Health Canada’s DrugsNot4Me website.

The ad, which is called “Mirror,” was launched on Nov. 17 by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Her department is spending $1.06 million to make the spot so ubiquitous on teen-oriented TV that two-thirds of 13- to 15-year-olds are expected to see it by next March. The Conservatives also hope it carries a message for their mothers and fathers. “To Canadian parents,” Aglukkaq said, “we’re on your side, and you have our support in helping your kids say no to drugs.” Few would argue with that goal, of course, but researchers and front-line doctors who work with teen addicts are critical of key elements of the strategy.

Asked if ad campaigns are often effective at discouraging drug abuse among young people, Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia, said, “They don’t have a good track record.” Is it sensible to try to reach all young teens with the same message about the grave danger of hard drugs? Not according to Elizabeth Saewyc, research director of the McCreary Centre Society, a Vancouver non-profit group that studies youth health issues, who said, “I would spend the money focusing on teens at greatest risk.” And what about the fact that the DrugsNot4Me campaign doesn’t even mention teen drinking? “That’s one huge omission,” said Dr. Karen Leslie, a pediatrician who heads the adolescent substance-abuse program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

Aglukkaq declined requests for an interview. However, she touched on the thinking behind “Mirror” in a news release. “The ad focuses on the harmful physical and social effects of drugs,” it says, “and shows youth how experimenting with them can ultimately lead to lifelong addiction.” But trying to get through to kids with alarming anti-drug warnings is a questionable tactic. Health Canada’s own report Preventing Substance Abuse Problems Among Young People—A Compendium of Best Practices advises against it. “Fear-arousing messages accompanied by incorrect or exaggerated information are not effective,” says the 2001 study, “and can generate skepticism, disrespect and resistance toward any advice on substance use or other risk behaviour.”

“Mirror” is clearly meant to arouse fear, but whether its message is “incorrect or exaggerated” is a matter of interpretation. A kid who sees it might reasonably draw the conclusion that any teen—even the outwardly prosperous and healthy girl depicted in the ad—is at risk of spiralling into a junkie nightmare. But that’s a rare scenario. “There are going to be a small number—and it’s a very small number—who come from what looks like a circumstance of complete advantage, and then they end up developing some drug problems,” Saewyc says. “That’s not the norm.”

The norm, she and other experts agree, is that teens who slide into substance abuse fall into high-risk categories. Many suffer from some mental disorder, or have a parent who’s an alcoholic or drug addict, or have been physically or sexually abused—or all three. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual also puts a teen at higher risk. So do childhood traumas or family disruptions. Leslie says prevention efforts should target those endangered adolescents. “In the work that we do, we certainly screen kids for risk factors,” she says, “and then reflect back to them, ‘Compared to another young person who doesn’t have these factors, you’re at higher risk.’ ”

For a campaign designed to reach virtually all young teens, the emphasis only on street drugs in “Mirror” and on the DrugsNot4Me website raises questions. “The whole campaign is focused on cannabis, mushrooms, heroin, cocaine; I don’t see alcohol,” says Saewyc. “You would think if they are targeting drug use they’d mention the drug most commonly used by adolescents, and that drug is alcohol—far and away more than any other illicit substance.” She argues that alcohol shouldn’t be put in a separate category. “There’s almost nobody who’s taking up cocaine who hasn’t already used alcohol,” Saewyc says. Stockwell notes that very early drinking, even in the preteen years, is a key warning sign for later drug abuse.

The good news is that drinking and drug use among teenagers seems to be declining. The Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s survey of Ontario students from Grade 7 to 12 found that 58.2 per cent used alcohol in 2009, down from 66 per cent in 1999. Over the same decade, those who had used cannabis at least once in the course of a year fell to 25.6 per cent from 28 per cent. The survey’s index of other illicit drugs showed use dropping to 10.1 per cent from 20.5 per cent. Very few young Canadians ever touch the most frightening drugs, like those snorted and injected by the girl in “Mirror.” In the Ontario survey, 0.7 per cent had tried heroin and 1.1 per cent crack cocaine.

Still, drugs remain deeply worrying to parents, and thus politically potent. The Conservatives make a point of using the DrugsNot4Me campaign to differentiate themselves from the Liberals in their attitude toward the problem. At the launch for “Mirror,” Tory MP Shelly Glover, a former Winnipeg police officer, repeatedly slammed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for favouring decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. She cast Ignatieff’s position as a permissive wink to children. “It’s very disturbing,” Glover said, “as a parent, and as a police officer for almost 19 years, to hear the Opposition, in fact the Liberal leader, say to our children that it is okay to take marijuana in small doses.” Ignatieff is on the record urging students not to smoke marijuana.

The politics of anti-drug rhetoric don’t have much to do with helping troubled adolescents who drink heavily or resort to drugs. Stockwell says any government’s first priority, instead of running its own ads, should be “identifying and then restricting alcohol and tobacco advertising with a high profile among young people.” When it comes to talking about hard drugs, Saewyc suggests the distorted image in “Mirror” is a poor starting point. “I’m not sure it’s effective to suggest that anybody just by one use, or anybody just trying a drug, is likely to become an addict shooting up in the alleyway,” she said. “It’s problematic because it’s not accurate, but it also ignores the people who are at greatest risk.”


Not exactly an accurate reflection

  1. Critics criticize – hence the name. I would rather have our tax dollars spent on prevention than on giving addicts more drugs and health care because we didn't do prevention. I think hard hitting anti-drug information DOES have an impact. I'm not an expert but I'm not a critic either. Check out for well-researched effective education on the subject. Something can be done and I'm glad our government is doing something.

    • I’m rather proud to be a critic. Last I checked an aptitude for critical thought is ordinarily encouraged among adolescents. But hey, I’m no expert either.

    • You seem to have missed the point that these ads are not reaching people who are most at risk, and even if they do they would not be effective. If you want to prevent drug and alcohol abuse it would be best to address the underlying issues first.

      • Not to mention that a lot of young people most likley to end up "in the system"don't see themselves in that nice, rich white girl from Brampton/Winnipeg/Halifax.

        It's one prong of a multi-teir ad approach…but right now, it seems to be the only one, which means they miss most of the vulnerable population.

      • Too simple and cost effective for a bureaucracy that is more into creating and maintaining high paying government jobs than producing results.

        • Oh please. This ad isn't aimed at kids, it's aimed at parent's who need to be told that Little Susie is in danger of becoming a drug addicted little tramp. (Tory anti-drug ads always have a whiff of teen sexualization about them like something out of "Go Ask Alice".) The real message, for easily-led voters, is that they'd better support the "law and order" agenda and fill those expensive jails with pot smokers… even though no proof supports any of those suppositions.

          Cops are just as self-interested in demonizing marijuana as any public health worker is in advocating interventin and action that is logical and empirically supported.

          • That ad is more closely aimed at those teens looking for a way to get hot Susie in the sack.

    • but if only a small percent of the target audience is actually using these hard drugs who is the add helping, what is the add doing that a teacher cant do in health class, other than over exaggerating. nobody ever takes these hard hitting government campaigns serious because of the over exaggeration. that 1.6 million dollars could do well in an add about the over-use of alcohol or recess pieces. if on one hand you have five teen junkies dyeing from od's, but on the other you have a hundred eight year olds with a semi's worth of spare tires and a blood sugar meeter an there hand who are you going to give the money to?
      michael –

    • Dear sjp, you and many others who support a conservative approach incorrectly believe that attacking the symptoms of a dysfunctional society will solve its problems. The only way to alleviate problems of drugs and crime in our society is to improve social programs that will provide adequate financial support and education to needy families as well as programs to help youth at risk. A punitive approach does not work, instead we need to be inclusive and helpful.

    • I would rather not see my tax dollars spent on prevention that has been shown already to be inefffective. Just say no to drugs – really? The Tories should be using their own money to promote their agenda.

  2. I guess this is the way society feels it has to go. It won't work, though. The only hope I see is to get back to what we were doing fifty years ago, and that is to take children to Sunday School where they are taught that there is a God in Heaven who sees and knows everything about them, and before whom they will one day give a personal account of themselves. Nothng else has that impact.

    • Oh, Ed, yeah I'm pretty sure Sunday school can resolve substance abuse problems. How naive of you, and on so many levels. Besides, if you believe in a God who was the creator of the world, why do you think he created marijuana and lovely lovely magic mushrooms? Or were those mistakes?

      • Even though he created it it doesn't meen it's for consumption, look at staroids, it for horses damne it and we take it for us, it not because it there that wwe have to eat it of consume it. Your juste trying to make an excuse to blame God and not yourself to be stupid anough to take it.

        • pelletjc….please check your spelling next time, that was painful.

    • I think you're confusing God with Santa Claus.

      • Have you ever considered that Santa and Satan are just two letters interchanged?

        • You better watch out….

        • Ah, yes, Dana Carvey did that as Church Lady in the Eighties (or was it the Nineties, oh well, can't remember). It was hilarious! He pointed out that Santa (aka Satan) wants little children to sit on his lap.

        • Both of which are christian inventions to control the ignorant so what's your point?

        • children are always taught that both god and santa see you at all times, and know if your good or bad and all of that jazz, santa is usually associated with god not satin.
          and on a side note, considering that santa was created by christians it is not hard to fathom that the name santa ,(deriving fron a CHRISTIAN bishop saint nicholas, or old saint nick) would we curiously close to satin.

    • Oh, God… really?

    • One of the best ways to keep your kids from doing stupid things and hiding their activities from their parents is an open and honest relationship. Yet you suggest that lying to them about some mythical Big Brother in the sky watching their every move and preparing a report card on them is a good idea. When they figure out you've been lying to them to manipulate their behaviour, how do you think they will respond?

    • That would be fine except for the small fact that god is a myth used to keep not so smart people in line with the wishes of the ruling class. AKA : Keep the peasants poor and stupid.

    • Nothing else has the impact of Sunday School? I'm sorry but that theory is ridiculous. What you are suggesting is a scare tactic – "he can see you and he will punish you if you do wrong"
      That is untrue and unfounded, not to mention the issue of drugs has very little to do with God in the first place. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant, there are Christian drug users just as some of the most wholesome people on the planet do not believe in God – you have taken the focus off of the issue of drugs, comon sense, open communication and free choice – by insinuating that religion is the answer and remedy to all bad choices.
      I don't think religion is a bad thing – it can help some people but it is not for everyone – I can assure you in rehab recovering drug users do not learn about God wanting to punish them – and yet, many people recofer nicely by learning th einformation and tools that are practical and necessary to help them live healthier lives.

    • this is almost the federal governments form of sunday school. after all isnt the idea of sunday school to achieve the F.O.G. (fear of god) in children to keep them in order. but im sure parents find this more innocent than telling their children that theres an all powerful axe wielding psycho that is going to punish you if you do wrong. also coincidentally the acronym on fear of god, or F.O.G helps as an excellent visual aid, god or religion being the fog, obscuring reality. (often the opposite of what the church preaches) so in a way you are absolutely right. put the fear of god in them and gain discipline. but at what mental cost? its virtually the same thing as beating children when they misbehave, giving children am extremely well rooted association with acting out and pain. essentially making the adult a push over, afraid to step out of line, someone who will always do as hes told.

    • Sunday School was one of the reasons I started doing drugs.

  3. How many people think these ads are actually intended to address youth drug use? Anyone?

    The Conservatives also hope it carries a message for their mothers and fathers – "we're on your side, and you have our support in helping your kids say no to drugs.”

    That is the only point.

    • that's the ONLY point. An appearance of doing something
      The sure as heck don't talk to the audience they claim they are intended for.

    • I totally agree.

      The danger is that they give the appearance of doing something while those children and youth who are most at risk are not having their issues addressed. It is sad.

      • Dude, poor people don't vote for Harper.

    • You took the comment right out of my brain. (Not as graceful a sentence as "You took the words right out of my mouth", but you get the point.)

    • Aw Zesty, I think you've hurt Shelly Glover's feelings!

  4. I don't think 'scare ads' like these work, and frankly do more damage than good.
    A kid tries a drink …or a puff of a joint, and waddyaknow! I'm not alone in my room cutting myself….!!
    I wonder what else they lied about? he/she wonders.
    This kind of prevention only makes them think we adults don't know what the heck we're talking about.
    I remember how I felt when I saw ridiculous ads like these as a teen…

    • I totally agree with you! I hate the way youth are taught about substance abuse — I have always said pretty much what you said: so the kid hears from the cops — COPS — about why they should avoid that old gateway, pot — puh-leeze — and then they go to a party and see their best friend have a toke, and guess what? He's a little giggly, and a little peckish — but he's not a hollow-eyed, skin-cutting degenerate all of a sudden, is he? No, he's actually having fun — and he's also not falling down drunk, waking up next to someone whose name he doesn't recognize.

      I told my kids I would prefer they were sneaking a toke in their friend's parent's garage instead of getting sh!t-faced drunk. And I meant it.

    • I'm in my early 40's, and I grew up listening to the "this is your brain on drugs" message. After being bombarded by this message for some time, I was convinced I would turn into some sort of raving, axe-wielding lunatic if so much as touched anything illicit. Well, to make a long story short, I had a bit of a rough spot during my teens, which culminated with me leaving home, being introduced to a new crowd, and drugs – pot, hash, oil, etc.

      Needless to say, I experimented for the first time, and – lo and behold; instead of killing anyone and waking up covered with blood, I laughed until my cheeks and stomach ached, and then ransacked the fridge. When I woke up the next morning, I came to the most obvious (and incorrect) teenage conclusion – drugs were not dangerous, drugs were quite fun, and the ENTIRE "drugs are bad" message was nonsense.

      So I became as interested in drugs as I was alcohol and experimented with mushrooms, acid, pcp and cocaine. It took me some time to realize that drugs were dangerous, but not for any of the reasons the ads had indicated. Eventually I quit everything altogether and got my life back on track.

      The point is, when you tell obviously ridiculous stories like this, you lose all credibility with your audience – who would be much better off learning the realities of experimentation. But, as a few posters have already indicated, this ad isn't about reaching out to teens – it's about fear-mongering and shoring up support with the Moms and Pops.

      • But that's where I think this ad targets right. What girl wants to look like that dazed toilet brush?
        Let's next see her spitting her rotting teeth in a sink after all the meth too!
        Or maybe the faces of her acquaintances when they see her smile like a hag.

  5. The problem is that the people who are running everything are not young and have never been at-risk. They don't know anything about youth and drugs, but they think they can make decisions on the behalf of young people. I can tell you I've been pounded with plenty of anti-drug and anti-smoking propaganda throughout my life. They have never been an influence in my life, and did not stop me from smoking crack while I was stuck living on the streets as a teen. Helping at-risk youth and providing them with support is the answer, not propaganda. Provide young people with the knowledge to make their own sound decisions instead of trying to make choices on their behalf. If you lie or exaggerate- You lose trust and respect. Honesty is the most important element of strong communication. If you need to skew reality to get me to do what you want me to do, then the only message given is- "It couldn't be that bad, since you needed to make stuff up to make it sound like it was."

    Oh, and Ed, I was taken to Sunday school when I was a kid. Big help it was. My pastor knocked up one of the students and committed suicide. What a great place.

    • You are spot-on, Rose. And, you're speaking as one who would know — too bad the agencies and their clients don't bother to address reality, eh?

    • I'm am truly sorry to hear that. May I suggest two things; 1. Don't discount the message because of the bad messenger, and 2. I tremble for him because he has so much he WILL answer for.

      • You're into punishment a lot, Ed; maybe you should be over on a Harper's dominatrix blog.

  6. These videos are a rehash of an old, failed strategy based on the "success" of Nancy Regan's Just Say No campaign way back in the 80's, and they have about the same chance of having any lasting effect on drug use or abuse. The Ministry knows this and doesn't care, because the point of the ads is to convince parents this government is doing something about drug abuse rather than to actually help anyone.

    We should insist our governments do something about the problems of addiction, organized crime and exploitation go along with drug abuse, and we should not let them get away with pretend efforts, band-aids and half measures, much less self-serving PR campaigns like these commercials. The war on drugs is over, everyone lost except drug dealers, and no one who is serious thinks it's methods will ever be effective in solving the drug problem. The irony is, anyone who really wants to help kids stay out of trouble with drugs is in favor of bringing them within the law in some way. The only ones who aren't are those who have given up and moved on to other agenda.

  7. Hah! It works with me, my siblings, many of my schoolmates, when we saw first hand the tragic effect of Drug Addiction. When a reformed drug addict went from school to school and spoke about the tragic effect of Drugs on him and his family (there was no money for drug ads then). Until now, it left an indelible cautionary impression on many of us. I can't understand those whose life revolves on complaining, aren't they tired of it? Of course alcohol ads for teens are important too but if too many messages is lumped in one ad campaign, the risk of that message not going through or lost is very high.

    • I've always found the old reformed drug addicts at school to be laughable, but okay, as long as it works for you. Most youth find it hard to relate to a gnarly old (could be 30 + and seem old to them) dude telling them how he fell apart — most youth don't relate to that, and don't see themselves that way at all.

      • Ah! how I wish he was just a regular boring 30ish reformed drug addict, he would have been easy to ignore and forget. In one of his lows after a high he shot himself. The most tragic part (for him) was he survived it and have to depend on everyone else 24/7 to function.

  8. i think it is naive to think the child in the ad is a good representation of the real children at risk, we should be focusing our funds on programs to help the high risk child, ie poverty, abuse, these are the common threads of children who start using drugs and alcohol at a young age, these are the children needing the help of our communities. let's set up programs at rec centres and schools to mentor these children so they can realize everyone can be happy and comfortable.

    • But why lie? Everyone cannot be happy OR comfortable!

  9. "Very few young Canadians ever touch the most frightening drugs, like those snorted and injected by the girl in “Mirror.” In the Ontario survey, 0.7 per cent had tried heroin and 1.1 per cent crack cocaine."

    Harper's Conservatives omit the most common and destructive drug used by adolescents, alcohol, from their entire anti-drug campaign and focus their messaging on something that is on the far fringes of the problem. They don't get it and don't care about the problem.What they do care about getting scared mommies and grannies to vote for them because they're so tough on druggies.

    '“It's very disturbing,” Glover said, “as a parent, and as a police officer for almost 19 years, to hear the Opposition, in fact the Liberal leader, say to our children that it is okay to take marijuana in small doses.” Ignatieff is on the record urging students not to smoke marijuana.'

    Shelly Glover has been lying about crime and punishment — and about what other people have said on the record — ever since she became a Tory candidate. Her track record of false statements is long and alarming, and she has no credibility whatsoever.

    • Any media organization who quotes those lies is just as bad.

    • You are dreaming if you believe those statistics, just look up the number of methadone clinics in you town, my city of about 100,000 people has THREE methadone clinics, serving a large number of clients, very busy 7 days a week. The problem is that people in the low risk category will not talk about loved ones that are addicts because of the shame. Just sit outside your neighborhood methadone clinic sometime and you will be surprised. We are not winning the war on drugs,
      I am all for prevention, and education, but we also need more rehab facilities, and a crackdown on docs that casually prescribe narcotics such as oxycotins.

  10. Critics my foot….they are just reacting to that $1.06 million not landing in their respective coffers to fund pet projects. Here is a sample of the 'films' produced by the McCreary Centre Society.

    Hard drugs ARE the problem. Crack and meth are horribly addictive, cheap and so easy to buy. (We did not have dial-a-dope in my day) Any negative advertising that might possibly make a young teen think twice is a good thing.

    • Hard drugs are A problem. But booze kills more than everything else combined.

      Also, crack and meth are not that easy to get, and are quite expensive. They're not something you casually use, so addiction gets pricey quite quickly.

      Dial-a-dope? Well, the smokable dope IS quite easy to get, likely because about a third of canadians use from time to time. Most are smart enough to function as useful citizens, too.

    • Those films produced by McCreary were actually created made by youth at risk.

  11. . 'Her department is spending $1.06 million to make the spot so ubiquitous on teen-oriented TV that two-thirds of 13- to 15-year-olds are expected to see it by next March'

    The can find a miilion + for this, but my community needs rec and other programmes for at risk kids…what do we get? SFA!!

  12. Hopefully more young people will feel confident enough to just say no to government.

    • In 2008, 62% of people were directly affected by voting in a government. Don't let it happen to your children. Talk to them about government today.

  13. as the parent of a now young adult who has serious drug addiction issues..I must say that spending huge amounts of money on advertising which is aimed at Parents.seems like a waste of money and time. my son went to the right Montessori School…we lived in a great neighbourhood, but the one thing a parent cannot control is who and where you teenager goes when they are away from home…yes we can encourage…but not control .
    The Federal Government should give their head a shake and look to the cost of prevention as opposed to the cost os housing another addict in a hospital or in Jail….
    Intelligent education to youth in a school setting could work…so does the backing of small age appropriate rehab centres wher young people can regain control of their lives….

  14. This is ridiculous. As a teenager I saw anti drug commercials and thought to myself "Ok Alright sure", now as an adult I feel exactly the same way except that I've actually lived it.
    I'm not perfect, as a teen I definately drank and into my college years I definately experimented but I'm not a junky. I didn't take one hit of a bong and then suddenly I was an addict, getting drunk and stoned.

  15. And I have to agreed with Ed, the reason I never spiraled down into addiction was because I had two great parents who raised me with values and the thought of ever disappointing them or doing anything that would hurt them, frightened me more than becoming an addict. I had my fun but always thought to myself, "Mom and Dad wouldn't be happy if they knew this" and that kept me out of serious trouble.
    I'm not saying children need to be forced to learn about God and honouring their families, I'm just saying that drug prevention starts in the home, if you have good honest parents who know the line between discipline and allowing children to learn from their own mistakes, children shouldn't have a problem. We need to re-educate the parents, not the children

    • If you had 2 parents, a stable homelife and a good family income, you were already way less likely to go down that path.

      You also had a much better safety net to catch you if you did take a tumble. Understand how fortunate you were, and how many at risk of addiction need much, much more than the re-education of parents. Or, most likely, "parent" in the singular.

    • That's a good point. My daughter is an elementary school teacher, and so may of the students are from single parent families. That was not the case when I was young.

      • Better a single loving parent than two angry hostile fighters, or people who only married because they were pregnant, or people who cheat or malign, or people who have long outgrown each other, or people who never wanted children, or people who got married to deny homosexuality or people who …

        I was a single parent and my kids were terrific and well-supported. And I made sure to go to every game, every assembly, every everything so that bigots would SEE for themselves that kids from single-parent families can be loved and supported. You might be surprised to hear how prevalent such judgement continues to be, even though there are many many contented and successful single-parent families.

    • Everyone probably has a trigger. For me it was never wanting to lose control. I cringed at the stories of schoolmates asking their friends what they did when they were too drunk to remember.
      "You fell off the toilet and peed on yourself girl" HAHA.

  16. The kids who are most at risk do not watch TV. If they have a warm bed it is usually in a shelter and they are kicked out of there during the day. They do not go to school either. It would be nice if the government did something about those issues.

    • Just a few years ago, in my affluent town, heroin was a big problem in the local high school. Yes, middle class teenagers from good homes can be at risk too.

  17. If the target is white kids from Suburbia, they're right on.

    Sadly, they're not the ones being served at soup kitchens downtown, doing tricks and smash and grabs for fix cash. They're the ones that go to expensive rehabs in the States.

    Trust me, from a marketing standpoint, that ad does an excellent job…of telling suburban parents that they're being looked out for. To be effective for the vulnerable, they need multiple faces and voices.

    • I think you're being overly dramatic. It's not such a polarized issue. I don't think there's this massive disenfranchised underclass that this is supposed to be appealing to. Although it certainly doesn't target, for instance, young people in aboriginal communities or extreme rural areas where drugs are a very serious problem.

      I'm not a white suburban person. Even if it was about that though, there are a lot of kids from that background who have drug problems too. And the song may or may not be appropriate, but at least in my case, I started using drugs at a time when I was still playing with lego and watching cartoons. And I think that's very common. I think most people who run into drug problems start at the pre-teen age, or at least early teen. Anyway, the music seems to me to be a statement about innocence more than anything.

      • So, you're not a white suburban person, you're a former teen addict, you work in advertising, and you think the ad is great. Tell me Anonymous, how long did the Tories take to come up with you as the perfect demographic pro-Gov commenter?

        • Wow. I think your tinfoil hat is on a little too tight.

          Tell me, oh masters of marketing and advertising here: what should the ad have looked like?

  18. "Declined requests for an interview."

    Strictly scripted, this particular Minister.

  19. Real message, of course, is that the advantaged children of 905ers will succumb to drug addiction unless their parents vote for 'tough on crime' candidates.

    • Bingo. Nicely said.

    • Or become addicted 416 streetkids.
      Whatever keeps them in 905 works for me!

  20. I wish that the money for the ad campaign (which will have little or no effect) had been spent on improving access to rehab and other services. As it stands now, when a person is ready to enter a rehabilitation facility where they could receive help for their alcohol/drug abuse there are often no beds available. That stinks.

  21. For me, this is yet another example of the Harper government ignoring expertise in a given field (including, in this case, in its own Health Canada department) in order to narrowcast to its own partisan supporters that it is doing something about the "drug problem", and purveying their usual fear mongering message that the world will go to hell without their all-knowing stewardship.

    I think the intended audience for this message is not those kids demographically most likely to be at risk, but middle class parents who, statistically at least, need not be alarmed about their children descending into a life of drug abuse.

    For the Cons, irrational fear is a friend.

    • Yes, and evidence and research are enemies.

  22. Maybe these new ads aren't perfect, but they're better than any others I've seen. They get the message across, unlike the traditional hokey ads in which we're told that we can still be "hip" and have "street cred" without resorting to drugs.

    • What's the message? It's a lie!

      • A lie? The message is that drugs will mess up your life, thought it was pretty straightforward..

        • What are the drugs to which you refer?

          • They make you thick too.

  23. As a mother I was very concerned when this ad aired, for the Canadian government to just say "drugs" in an ad is dangerously broad as all drugs are not created equal. Caffeine for instance is also a drug. And I think we are all smart enough to know that there is a huge difference between pot and meth. I wrote about this back on November 19th and oddly enough also mention Justin Beiber : An excerpt from "MP Shelly Glover Is Not4Me!":

    "Of course we don't want kids to use drugs, and responsible parents will educate themselves about all drugs, licit and illicit, so we can give our kids the honest to goodness truth and real facts about all drugs because really, it's not the governments job. While I appreciate education about drugs as a public service, our children deserve such important information presented truthfully. If you lie about cannabis, kids are going to think you also lie about much more dangerous drugs, and that in itself is grossly irresponsible!" –

    Two great sites for parents are Canadian Students For Sensible Drug Policy, who has countered the Conservatives with their own Not4Me website:… and –

  24. I'm not sure what you do in advertising, but let me tell you, this is far from the mark — think about the little kid verse singsong music — do you believe teens relate to that? Or do you think their parents still think of them as little tots, and so that's why the singsong verse?

    This ad will bite the dust along with the "Smoking makes your teeth yellow; smoking makes your breath smellow" ads of the late Seventies.

    • No, no, read my post, I agree. It's all about making the parents happy. The singsong was quite intentional. Their 15 year-olds are still their babies, and the lyrics are horrifying. Makes a parent shudder to think "oh my gawd, that could be my erfect child who hasn't really grown up."

      • Hi, MC — Yeah, I agree with you — was responding to Anonymous — yes, it's for the parents, not the youth. And I'm sure that was intentional — is it possible to FOI for advertising strategy from government advertising suppliers? Or is agency stuff top secret shhh!

        So I suppose a measurement of success for the ad would be parents feeling safer and more satisfied that somehow their kids' drug education is being well-handled. In about a month, there will be a phone poll to measure effectiveness with questions like, "Do you support such efforts as the Harper government's widely televised campaign to educate youth about the dangers of substance abuse?" I continue to be surprised that we have all accepted this as appropriate, along with school visits from ex-con addicts fear-mongering to students.schools — while basketball and football coaches across the nation continue to party with parents and get slurringly drunk in front of the kids — totally acceptable.

        • It is, in fact, possible to FOI ad proposals. Generally, the ad company pitches several concepts, with reasoning behind it, to either the political or the health folk, depending on who's putting out the ads. The politicos often dip in at this point, look it all over and make "suggestions".

          So, yeah, you could FOI the proposal presented to the communications 'crats from the ministry and to the Minister's staff. Be prepared for a long wait. And make sure you specify you don't need the agency billing numbers, as they may claim anti-competitive issues. Not that I know anything about the process, you understand.


  25. "As for the jails, who will fill them? she asked. “Is it a case of build it and they will come?”
    She suspects what they'll do to fill those jails is just lower the criminal bar so they will have enough people to fill the jails.
    And then they can say, we told you so." ~ Margaret Atwood,
    "Atwood launches assault on gov't with razor-sharp wit"

    Federal government to spend almost $80 million expanding B.C. prisons:

    If the government was really serious about drug prevention – they'd have taken that 80 Mil and put it towards child poverty, education and health, mentoring and youth employment programs.

    From "Look! Over There! A Shiny Thing!!!" –… "I wonder how Canadian parents are going to feel when Under Bill S-10 their 18 year olds are sentenced to TWO YEARS in jail for passing a joint (Trafficking) to a 17 year old friend. Bill S-10 takes away all discretion from judges. "

    And unfortunately now, Stephen Harper has stacked the Senate with Conservatives so in all likelihood Bill S-10 will pass. Get the lowdown on Bill S-10 here:

  26. Whether or not this particular ad was effective, something has been going right over the past decade if you look at the youth at risk statistics (granted these are US numbers, but I would imagine the Canadian trends are similar). Can this article discredit increased awareness of risks as a factor in moving those numbers?

    Ever used cocaine (these are grade 9-12 students as are all of these numbers)
    1991: 5.9%
    1999: 9.5% (peak)
    2009: 6.4%

    Ever used meth
    1999: 9.1% (question introduced)
    2001: 9.8%
    2009: 4.1%

    Ever gotten high from aerosol cans
    1995 (question introduced): 20.3%
    2009: 11.3%

    Ever used marijuana
    1991: 31.3%
    1997: 47% (peak)
    2009: 36.8%

  27. And don't forget that Dianetics, the Ron Hubbard bestseller is available for purchase in the front lobby. Thanks for coming out tonight.

  28. When I was a teenager (80's), it was considered pretty normal and usual to smoke pot, try mushrooms etc. But, I never did, and so I was considered a "nerd" – out-of-step with my peers, not cool. None of those teenagers then realized that "dabbling" could lead to genuine addiction, and I know many former "recreational users" who are now addicts. Nowadays, the teenagers can talk more openly with adults about drugs. There's no shock value in the subject anymore. Its easier to have a sensible dialogue, and be informed. From what I see of teens these days, they're nobody's fool. They see drugs for what they are. The message that this ad is giving is important, and truthful, so what is the motivation of those who criticize it? Casual use CAN & DOES lead to abuse for some. Therefore, today's teenagers need to develop a culture of considering "drug-users" the ones who are not cool, out-of-step, "losers".

    • What are the addicts you know addicted to: pot? mushrooms? alcohol? meth? What drugs do you consider to be addictive? What does the TV ad in question ignore? What does it introduce? Is it honest?

      • Like our Prime Minister, Ann D wants revenge on the cool kids for her loner high school status. Where did you grow up, Ann, that you know "many" former recreational users who are now addicts? I can't think of any of all the people I went to school with in a pretty hard-living town. I'll be surprised if you don't know many more alcoholics.

        • Actually, "Realistic Man", I don't need revenge on the cool kids – I got that at my 20th High School Reunion – which I organized btw – when I came back as the rich, successful kid, who hosted the Reunion, so nope – no f.u. needed! And when I say that I came back as the rich successful kid, I had been the ordinary working-class kid who grew up AMONGST rich kids – whose parents overindulged them – thus plenty of money to blow on 'BLOW'. But guess what – the drug-dabbling kids who had rich parents, soon found out that their parents' money didn't follow them when they left home, nor clean up the mess they'd made of their lives. Oh, and "Realistic Man" – I don't need to flaunt in front of people generally, I saved that special treatment for the over-privileged brats from my v. up-market school. I have plenty of success and contentment in my life, both personal and professional. Still, I have enough concern for others to care about kids growing up today, and how their lives will be affected by contact with drugs. What – exactly – do YOU care about "Realistic Man"? It certainly isn't others!

        • Oh, and btw "Realistic Man" don't go there with the "alcohol is a worse drug" crap. It's a tired, fabricated, argument from the pro-legalization side, and it just doesn't hold water – nor it's liquor! Alcohol CAN be damaging, but people can, and do, come back from Alcoholism. There IS no return from being a Meth addict – its a one-way street! So yep, it's bad if kids abuse alcohol, hell, its bad if they abuse PIZZA, absolutely anything that we ingest CAN become a habit! Alcohol can cause great physical damage with long-term abuse, but I'd rather my kids crack a beer on Friday night – because if they have too much beer, they'll barf, wakeup with a horrible headache and wish they were dead – and learn not to drink that much again! The body's natural defense mechanism! If they abuse alcohol and become alcoholic, thus causing liver-damage, their liver could potentially repair itself if they get clean. The same can't be said for a kid trying meth for the first time.

          • You sound bitter, holier than thou, and frankly, out of the loop. Booze is prevalent, accessible and legal. Far more people have their lives ruined by alcoholism than can even come close to all drugs put together, so no it is NOT a tired fabricated argument from the pro-legalization side. It's science, baby.

            Likely because of ads like the one being discussed here, you reflect what drives many of us posting here crazy: you mix up pot and shrooms with meth. All things classed as drugs are not created equal, and until the law can start to recognize this, people like you will continue to fear a benign little plant and equate it to meth, which has ingredients like Drano. No one was ever meant to ingest Drano for any reason. Pot has amazing medicinal qualities, and should be a regular part of cancer treatment — it's medicine. There is no correlation between enjoying some tea made of marijuana, and putting Drano into your system.

          • Nobody is ever more self-righteous, than when they defend their favourite fix…

  29. Harper says No to Drugs
    Teens say but it's ok to drink your face off
    and chew big pharma drugs-the commercials say so
    And the Government tells me Pot is
    How can I believe them
    and if i don't say NO to drugs
    Harper wants to put me in jail for selling a bit of Pot to my friends
    and growing 6 plants out back on the farm
    I don't think my parents will be very happy if i go to jail
    for a youthful indescretion!

  30. It is an eye-rollingly laughable and embarrassingly lame attempt to both appeal to and frighten kids. "Just say no" was a joke in the 1980s when I was a teen, as was the "This is your brain on drugs" commercial where the girl trashes the house with a frying pan. Now this same, worn-out, proven-failure method of fear-mongering and lying is being rehashed and spewed at your kids.

    These ads will run on TV alongside commercials for booze, erection pills, junk food, violent movies, video games, and fast cars. If history is any indication, these new ads — which you all paid for, by the way — will likely have no effect on most smart kids who will try drugs, and cause the ones who don't to laugh even more heartily at adults' silly attempts to prevent teen drug use.

    Does anyone still believe that kids actually buy these ridiculous ruses? Our government does.

    For those keen on teaching kids about drugs without the hyperbole of the standard "education" programs, I recommend the Canadian Students For Sensible Drug Policy website at , the Educators For Sensible Drug Policy website at or the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website at .

  31. This is an idiotic waste of money. Do we learn nothing from the past? "Just Say No" Nancy Reagan? And how did that work out? The biggest drug use in the world is south of the border obviously because they know, they just know in their guts, that prohibition works. The lowest use is Holland where it's de facto legal. Our "We don't need no stinkin' science" government is behaving as scripted. Better build some more prisons Steve.

  32. There is, apparently, a drug that if taken only once causes severe addiction. On a road trip through Colorado to Arizona, we saw many huge billboards with pictures as awful of this ad. The caption was 'Not even once'!!

    Also, I recall reading a testimonial in the Readers' Digest of a girl from Vancouver who had taken this particular drug only once, and ended up like the girl in the commercial… so it does happen. She did manage through tremendous effort to turn her life around.

    Sorry, I am not sure what the drug is, but there is nothing wrong with warning about the worst possible consequences of one's actions… even once.

    • I believe the drug is alcohol.

      • No, it was not alcohol. The drug I'm talking about was injected. Can one become seriously addicted after imbibing alcohol once? I've never heard of that.

        • It was likely crystal meth, which is made in bathtubs and has Drano as an ingredient. This is not the same in any way as pot or mushrooms, which are plants, and that's why they should not be all lumped in together.

          • OK, but isn't that worth warning about?

          • I don't believe in prohibition because it does not work. And yes, meth is a hazard, although why anyone needs to be told not to put poison into their system is kind of bewildering. And since I cannot agree with the way illicit drug use is portrayed by our government, while prescription drugs and booze continue to wreak havoc on people's lives, then no, I cannot agree with this kind of ad campaign.

            Ad campaigns are effective only in making ad agencies rich. So no, this campaign is not worth the money spent on it, and the really upsetting thing is, the people who put it together are well aware of that fact. You are being hoodwinked. The government is hoodwinking us, not helping us.

    • And that drug was…


      Anyway, the ad clearly was effective in transmitting the message of Fear, 'cause you don't remember the obvious content.

      • You missed smokes. Instantly addictive.

  33. Since almost everyone born after 1950 has had some contact with drugs I have to wonder what world the morons that put out this garbage live in. Certainly not ours. Where I grew up in B.C. it is common for three generations to smoke pot together. Yes there are new and more dangerous drugs on the market than in the 60s and 70s and education is vital but the reefer madness style of drug uneducation that is such a dismal failure in the US will not work here either. Teens are way smarter than most adults give them credit for and know when they are being BSed.

  34. What's the chances of finding "critics" from accross the land, on any policy?

    About 100%

    What are the chances that there are 'proponents' accross the land that are in favour (including the experts consulted on this very ad) of this approach?

    About 100%

    What are the chances of the raving anti-Harper left leaning media showing a semblence of balance instead of seeking out and shining a spotlight on the "critics"?

    About 0%

    Carry on.

    • Chet on a Hot Tin Roof?

    • Where did you get the third statistic?

  35. Thankfully average Canadians don't see everything through a one-sided anti-Harper prism, such that every CPC policy is not wholly without merit to the point of being scandalous.

    Which is why it will be particularily enjoyable to see Harper's seat total again go up (as with each successive election) while our "analysists" (read agenda driven leftists) in the media, will be shocked and dismayed as to the inexplicable outcome.

    Enjoyable indeed.

    • It is not that the program is without merit, it is the 1950s DEA style that is without merit. The absolute worst drugs available are the ones Big Pharma pays your doctor to prescribe to you. Few have any real benefit and many are not only addictive but have side effects that are as bad as the original symptom.

    • Don't be surprised. Most of the posters here lack the introspection to realize that the same accusations of ideology over reason they hurl at Harper also apply to them. Reason has become a slogan to them, rather than a thought process.

  36. What else is new? The Harper gang seem to have an aversion to reseach results and to listening to the experts in any field. The old saying about the stupidity of repeating the same action and hoping for a different result applies here. No suprise the surplus disappeared and we have a deficit with little to show for it.

  37. Then I'm afraid you should be avoiding both drugs and advertising, since they're both obviously unsuited to you.

  38. I only skimmed the article, but didn't see anything that would answer my question — does anyone know who got the job making the ad campaign?

  39. Oh look! Chet is back trying to change the topic again. Something about pointing out how much money the CPC wastes on targeting voters instead of assisting Canadians makes him worry…

  40. I haven't seen the ad as yet, but it doesn't surprise me that the focus is on all those bad illegal drugs and not on the legal ones like alcohol, OTC and prescription painkillers, etc. It is a pitch to the Ref-Con core supporters. As a teenager, I was too scared to try drugs, but my parents with all the best intentions in the world let me drink so that it wouldn't be a mystery and I wouldn't grow up to be like my alcoholic grandfather. Well, the honour student from a respectable family DID become an alcoholic and almost wound up on the street. By the grace of whatever divine being is out there, I got help and have been sober now for 27 years. Focussing solely on prevention isn't going to do it, either. Appropriate assessement, referral and treatment (not one size fits all) plus in-person aftercare (not just 1-800 numbers) and structured support for reintegration into society for those without strong life skills. There must be a continuum of care, otherwise all you get is the revolving door syndrome.

  41. In the full version, a crying mother is heard during the final seconds, while a father's voice yells "I TOLD YOU NOT TO VOTE FOR INGNATIEFF AND THE COALITION!"

    • With a fonted line over the image: The Liberal-NDP-Bloq Coalition: addicting your kids to dangerous drugs.

  42. Deary deary me. The mainstreamers are getting their panties in a knot again. Maybe a hit off a bong would help them calm down? I've been using drugs (marijuana, mescaline, mushrooms, ketamine, cocaine, salvia, DEX, DMT, acid, ayhuasca, ecstasy, LSA, everything buy crack, meth and heroin) since I was in my teens. Subjected to adds like this, I became radically aware of the ignorance and hypocrisy that dominates government drug policies. These days, I am a novelist and philosopher. I continue to use as many psychoactives as I did then. I am carrying the sacred shamanic tradition into the 21st century. Also, my boyfriend was a heroin user for ten years. Though neither of us recommend the lifestyle associated with that drug, he can attest that there is a great deal of gray are between abstinence and addiction. We've had our lives ruined about as much as Keith Richards has. Anti-drug campaigns neglect the long history between psychoactive substances and human culture, religion, art and music. Like abstinence only sex education, anti drug campaigns create a dangerous ignorance rather than a valuable education. Drugs, like paragliding, are fun if you know what you're doing and dangerous if you don't. Better to tell these kids how to explore these potentially beneficial substances in a safe and effective way than to deprive our culture of one of its most important engines.

  43. They should have taken that 1.6 milion added about 30 million more and put it into schools, Teens need to have an outlet and why not music, arts, sports. There have been so many cut backs in schools with extra ciricular activitied. Also parents need to start watching during middle school. I had my boys watch a documntary on how drugs like crack etc, can change the brain and we talked and I scared the crap out of them, Along with the documentay it made a difference. Also I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a drum set and guitar and amp. That kept one son bus the other was an outdoors type so he got the skidoo, ski's, fishing rods etc. And I spent time with them motivating, and talking every day. Parents are the key and school's need to get back to music, sports, and the arts.

  44. I disagree with the critique. Sometimes ‘fear tactics' are necessary, especially when showing the possible consequences of an act. I extremely doubt ‘friends' who give their pals narcotics explain the possible side effects or injury incurred from using these substances. It's mostly just chatter about how great and wonderful it is and how everybody does it and it's not dangerous at all. Therefore, it's necessary to hear the other side somewhere. Ignorance isn't bliss. It's dangerous.
    While drugs may be something kids play with for a time and give up, there are those who continue to levels shown in the mirror. Even worse, many are left with no choice but to turn to crime or prostitution to pay for these indulgences. Sometimes a subtle, “Just say no” is not the answer.
    As for alcohol's exclusion from this ad, perhaps they wanted the focus to be on the more dangerous additions first. In a way alcohol should have its own separate advertisement as alcohol poisoning and drunk driving kill so many.

    • As for fear tactics, I'm curious, do people also whine when M.A.D.D. post adds showing the death and horror involved when people are struck by drunk drivers? There are many who drive drunk and get home safely but some don't. The horror shown isn't an exaggeration. It's also is a possibility.

      The informed decision is always the better choice. I'm glad the ad is up and running.

  45. I suspect you are lying about having a working knowledge of advertising, drugs, or both.

  46. Critics, as in leftwing Canuckistani media that attract a certain readership that far and away favours rape suspects like theWikiLeaks dude over their own governments in what, so far at least, is some of the freest countries in the world. Says something about their agenda.

  47. Wish that our government could be more original. 'Just say no' was, after all, the same line Nancy Reagan used when Republican Ronald Reagan was U.S. President. Oh right, Harper is a Republican!

  48. Who saw the CBC about the Mexican Drug War and the number of innocent kids murdered by greedy evil Drug Lord bastards looking to control the trade in illicit drugs? The comment which lept out at me was "The US market is the largest and most profitable in the world, and the war to control the right to supply it has taken many lives". You know what struck me? Every one of you selfish bastards who buys illegal drugs – has the blood of innocent children on your hands. It is because of YOUR selfish desire to seek a high on the fulfillment of a whim, that those children die! And before anyone tells me that I've got it all wrong and if drugs were legal there would be no Drug Lords – you've got it wrong! If there were no selfish bastards who insist on satisfying their whims, there would be no Drug Lords REGARDLESS of whether drugs are legal or not! Look in the mirror and see yourselves for the selfish people that you are! Medical-marijuana users excepted &completely blameless. But, If you buy illegal drugs to get high, you are a murderer, plain and simple – the blood might be on someone elses hands many links down the chain, but it passes to you when you make a purchase. Live with it!

    • Ann D, if someone dies in a car accident that is alcohol related, who do you blame, the car manufacturer, the company that produced the booze, the gov't for having relaxed laws on drinking and driving , the parents of the assailant for not teaching their offspring properly, the driver of the vehicle, who Ann are you going to blame as it seems you are intent on finding blame, but maybe you better be careful as someone might blame you for supporting the alcohol industry, they are responsibile for more deaths over the years then I can figure in mumbers. Ever look at the stats on alcohol related deaths and according to your comment you support the alcohol industry, how does it feel to support this wholesale death by alcohol?

  49. A large percentage of teenage drug addicts are caused by peer pressure, and kids who use drugs probably wouldn't even bother to watch those anti-drug commercial.

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  50. You know who's at risk?
    Kids who can't resist taking orders from their "friends", people in families that have experienced a death, tragedy, violence, break-up or trauma of some kind. Okay, who's left?
    When you spend your money on addiction you become poorer and sicker so you're more likely to find addicts among the poor and sick.
    Ask most addicts why they are addicts and they will supply you with a story. Since no one is going to ask, I myself am straight because my dad was an alcoholic. Drink your kids straight everyone.

  51. I've used drugs for over 40 years of my life. The people I know who problems with drugs (I'm speaking of teenagers here) were always the ones who'd been abused at home. The kids who came from "well-adjusted" families seemed to be able to put their usage in context."Just say no" is a tired old bromide that has never resonated with it's target audience.

    The adult users that I know who've had problems with drugs were invariably alcoholics or tobacco abusers. Cannabis — not a good drug for growing teenage brains but adults should be able to partake without have to submit to Steve Harper's penal colony mentality.

  52. The best weapon that the government, parents and teachers have with regards to drug education is the truth. The hysterical, over-the-top "all drugs are the same" message that has generally been employed is ineffective and can even backfire when kids experiment with some of the softer drugs, and realize that the world did not in fact come to an end. Discussing marijuana in the same terms as cocaine and heroin, while omitting alcohol and prescription drugs from the conversation is dishonest at best and dangerous at worst. Drug education also never mentions the fact that drugs can be fun, that being high can feel good – but also be very clear, and HONEST about the potential consequences.

    I and most of my peers are university educated professionals, and a significant proportion, at least half, experimented, some quite heavily, with various drugs in our younger years. Even now at parties, it's not uncommon after a few beers for a joint to get passed around while lawyers, teachers, investment bankers, consultants, dentists, dietitians – all respectable, middle class, tax-payers from "good" families – take a puff or two. Drugs didn't ruin our lives, although with any psychoactive substance, that potential typically does exist. Kids are incredibly sophisticated these days, and have access to more information than anyone over the age of 25 had while growing up. They are quick to pick up on dishonest or inauthentic messaging, and in the absence of reliable information, will go seek it out on their own. I and most of my friends survived our youthful experimentation in spite of what we were taught, not because of it. We need to stop lying to kids, because in spite of parents' best wishes and intentions, they can't supervise them 24/7. This stuff is out there, and it's more likely than not that they're going to come into contact with it at some point. When that does happen, the best tool we can provide them with is reliable, factual information.

  53. Well our country would prefer we all get addicted to Oxy Contin than do street drugs. Oxy Contin is Heroin , it is not “like” it is 100% pure Heroin. In Canada we did not have a major Heroin problem throughout until Health Canada allowed it to be distributed to the public by pad Nazis “Doctors who write nothing but Prescriptions” So before I decide to respect and laws or campaigns I gotta see results that Health Canada is getting ousted from existence. Why? To save many many lives that they have taken and are willing to take many more indiscriminately. If you want to learn the truth about pot you can not ask a Doctor or anyone who can provide prescriptions. They can not make money on it and have a banded effort to make their NARCOTICS more appealing. Be safe and always learn about what you ingest people , I say Pot and only pot is safe the rest is iffy even Tylenol might be more dangerous. Peace.