Prevention Science

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 256–263 | Cite as

Drugs, Money, and Graphic Ads: A Critical Review of the Montana Meth Project



The Montana Meth Project (MMP) is an organization that launched a large-scale methamphetamine prevention program in Montana in 2005. The central component of the program is a graphic advertising campaign that portrays methamphetamine users as unhygienic, dangerous, untrustworthy, and exploitive. Montana teenagers are exposed to the advertisements three to five times a week. The MMP, media and politicians have portrayed the advertising campaign as a resounding success that has dramatically increased anti-methamphetamine attitudes and reduced drug use in Montana. The program is currently being rolled out across the nation, and is receiving considerable public funding. This article critically reviews the evidence used by the MMP to claim that its advertising campaign is effective. The main finding is that empirical support for the campaign is weak. Claims that the campaign is effective are not supported by data. The campaign has been associated with increases in the acceptability of using methamphetamine and decreases in the perceived danger of using drugs. These and other negative findings have been ignored and misrepresented by the MMP. There is no evidence that reductions in methamphetamine use in Montana are caused by the advertising campaign. On the basis of current evidence, continued public funding and rollout of Montana-style methamphetamine programs is inadvisable.


Methamphetamine Graphic advertising Drug prevention Boomerang effect 


  1. An expensive habit: State pledges $2 million to Montana Meth Project. (2007, April 17). The Missoula Independent. Retrieved from
  2. Associated Press. (2007). Congress approves money for Montana. KX News, December 19. Retrieved from
  3. Before the Senate Finance Committee: Statement of Thomas M. Siebel. (2007). Retrieved from, September 18.
  4. Brecht, M.-L., O’Brien, A., von Mayrhauser, C., & Anglin, M. D. (2004). Methamphetamine use behaviors and gender differences. Addictive Behaviors, 29, 89–106. doi: 10.1016/S0306-4603(03)00082-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cartier, J., Farabee, D., & Prendergast, M. (2006). Methamphetamine use, self-reported violent crime, and recidivism among offenders in California who abuse substances. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21, 435–445. doi: 10.1177/0886260505285724.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Colfax, G., & Shoptaw, S. (2005). The methamphetamine epidemic: Implications for HIV prevention and treatment. Current HIV/AIDS Reports, 2, 194–199. doi: 10.1007/s11904-005-0016-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eddy, M. (2006). War on drugs: The national youth anti-drug campaign. Retrieved from
  8. Executive Office of the Presidents of the United States. (2007). National Drug Control Strategy FY 2008 Budget Summary, February. Retrieved from
  9. GAO. (2006). ONDCP media campaign: Contractor’s national evaluation did not find that the youth anti-drug media campaign was effective in reducing youth drug use. Retrieved from
  10. Gouras, M. (2007). Schools chief says meth use declining due to shocking ads, September 18. Retrieved from
  11. Herman-Stahl, M., Krebs, C., Kroutil, L., & Heller, D. (2007). Risk and protective factors for methamphetamine use and nonmedical use of prescription stimulants among young adults aged 18 to 25. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 1003–1015. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2006.07.010.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hornik, R., Maklan, D., Cadell, D., Prado, A., Barmada, C., Jacobsohn, L., et al. (2002). Evaluation of the national youth anti-drug media campaign: Fourth semi-annual report of findings. Retrieved from
  13. IR Staff. (2007). Scourge of meth is waning. Helena Independent Record, September 19. Retrieved from
  14. McGrath, M. (2007). Methamphetamine in Montana: A preliminary report on trends and impacts. Retrieved from
  15. Mcquillan, J. (2006). What’s wrong with this picture? Why the Montana Meth Project isn’t all it’s cranked up to be. The Missoula Independent, August 3. Retrieved from
  16. Meth Project Foundation. (2008). Montana Meth Project—Mission. Retrieved from
  17. Montana Contractors’ Association. (2007). Montana Contractors’ Association members raise nearly $250,000 for Montana Meth Project [Press Release], December 17. Retrieved from
  18. Montana Meth funding advances. (2007). Billings Gazette, June 29. Retrieved from
  19. Montana Meth Project. (2006). New Montana Meth Project survey shows increased awareness of meth risks [Press Release], April 19. Retrieved from
  20. Montana Meth Project. (2007a). MMP fact sheet. Retrieved from
  21. Montana Meth Project. (2007b). New Montana Meth Project survey shows dramatic shift in attitudes towards meth [Press Release], March 7. Retrieved from
  22. Montana Meth Project. (2008). Montana meth: Use and attitudes survey 2008. Retrieved from
  23. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Methamphetamine abuse and addiction. Retrieved from
  24. Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2006). White House drug czar recognizes effective Montana efforts reducing meth production, use [Press Release], October 16. Retrieved from
  25. Office of Public Instruction. (2007). Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), September 18. Retrieved from
  26. ONDCP. (2007). ONDCP’s 2007 Anti-meth campaign: An overview. Retrieved from
  27. Orwin, R., Cadell, D., Chu, A., Kalton, G., Maklan, D., Morin, C., et al. (2006). Evaluation of the national youth anti-drug media campaign: 2004 Report of findings. Retrieved from
  28. Progress in fighting meth. (2007). Billings Gazette, September 20. Retrieved from
  29. Rehberg, D. (2007). Rehberg praises efforts of Montana Meth Project [Press Release], June 28. Retrieved from
  30. Ringold, D. J. (2002). Boomerang effects in response to public health interventions: Some unintended consequences in the alcoholic beverage market. Journal of Consumer Policy, 25, 27–63. doi: 10.1023/A:1014588126336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ruiter, R. A. C., Abraham, C., & Kok, G. (2001). Scary warnings and rational precautions: A review of the psychology of fear appeals. Psychology and Health, 16, 613–630. doi: 10.1080/08870440108405863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Skitka, L. J., & Sargis, E. G. (2006). The internet as a psychological laboratory. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 529–555. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190048.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spoth, R. L., Clair, S., Shin, C., & Redmond, C. (2006). Long-term effects of universal preventative interventions on methamphetamine use among adolescents. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 160, 876–882. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.9.876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tester, J. (2007a). Baucus, Tester grab federal dollars for Montana Meth Project [Press Release], October 16. Retrieved from
  35. Tester, J. (2007b). Baucus, Tester secure nearly $11 million for Missoula [Press Release], December 18. Retrieved from
  36. The Meth Project. (2006). Montana Meth use & attitudes survey. Retrieved from
  37. The Meth Project. (2007a). Meth Project fact sheet. Retrieved from
  38. The Meth Project. (2007b). Montana meth: Use & attitudes survey 2007. Retrieved from
  39. The Meth Project. (2007c). National use & attitudes survey 2007. Retrieved from
  40. The Meth Project. (2007d). Meth Project advertisements selected for national prevention campaign [Press Release], September 13. Retrieved from
  41. The Meth Project. (2007e). Meth Project chairman testifies before U.S. Senate Finance Committee [Press Release], September 18a. Retrieved from
  42. The Meth Project. (2007f). Teen meth usage in Montana declined by nearly 50% since 2005 [Press Release], September 18b. Retrieved from
  43. Wermuth, L. (2000). Methamphetamine use: Hazards and social influences. Journal of Drug Education, 30, 423–433. doi: 10.2190/GMH7-3FWX-1AC1-RWXP.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Winslow, B. T., Voorhees, K. I., & Pehl, K. A. (2007). Methamphetamine abuse. American Family Physician, 76, 1169–1174.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Witte, K., & Allen, M. (2000). A meta-analysis of fear appeals: implications for effective public health campaigns. Health Education & Behavior, 27, 591–615. doi: 10.1177/109019810002700506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology M304University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

Personalised recommendations