The Heroin Campaign

The Heroin Campaign


In 1995, out of the estimated new heroin users, 90 percent of them were under 26 and 77 percent never injected it. The higher purity of heroin allowed users to get a sufficient high by snorting and/or sniffing opening the door to a new pool of users who would never have considered trying heroin by injections.

The fact that heroin could now be sniffed or snorted instead of injected also had a dangerous effect on young people’s attitudes about the risks of heroin. They believed it was not as dangerous as other drugs. Society’s most glamorous people, who could afford to have or do anything, were choosing heroin. Club goers, who were characterized as a group of people who were “attractively reckless” and who “lived on the edge,” were using heroin. In truth, though, heroin is a dangerous and potentially addictive drug no matter how it is used.


Based on research, including University of Michigan’s “Monitoring the Future” study, that clearly shows that the likelihood of using a drug is directly affected by how dangerous its use is perceived to be, The Partnership launched a campaign in 1996 to increase young people’s perception of heroin as a dangerously addictive drug. The glamorization of heroin presented a challenge for The Partnership in developing anti-heroin communications. A message that said that heroin can kill you could backfire and actually attract those risk seekers. Rather, the emphasis had to be on communicating the severe risks of heroin experimentation and use by shattering the images of heroin as a hip, cool, attractive drug.


Results from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) indicated that as a result of the Heroin Campaign significant progress had been made in the effort to build teens’ attitudes about the risks of heroin use.

  • Significant positive changes in the attitudes relating to the dangers of heroin use occurred from 1996 to 1997 among teens. (Significant changes were at the .05 level).
  • Perception of risk of heroin use increased significantly among older teens, aged 16 and older.
  • The percent who agreed strongly with the statement, “Heroin is a dangerously addictive drug” significantly increased from 84 percent in 1996 to 89 percent in 1997.
  • In 1996, 26 percent of older teens ranked heroin as the most harmful drug. By 1997, that number had significantly increased to 38 percent.
  • Perception of risk of heroin use also increased significantly among younger teens, aged 14 – 15.

The percent who agreed strongly with the statement, “Heroin is a dangerously addictive drug” significantly increased from 80 percent in 1996 to 84 percent in 1997.

In 1998, the New York chapter of the American Marketing Association presented The Partnership, J. Walter Thompson; Ground Zero; Hill, Holiday, Conners, Cosmopulos; and D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles with advertising’s most coveted award – the Gold “EFFIE” – for the effectiveness of its national, anti-drug public service advertising campaign.

TV Commercials:


Everybody’s Doing It

Partnership to End Addiction

"Our future marketing and advertising leaders are not just looking for a job, they are looking for a meaningful career that will make a positive impact on society."
— Gord McLean, President and CEO at ANA Educational Foundation