Blast from the Past: "Just Say No"

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A photo of Nancy Reagan.

In 1982, then-First Lady Nancy Reagan launched an anti-drug campaign famously known as “Just say no.”

While many people—including public health experts—believed the message was an important one to get out to teens, others thought it was way too simplistic and would not appeal to them.

The message appealed to Mrs. Reagan, who campaigned tirelessly for the effort, appearing on television news, giving speeches, and writing newspaper editorials. She even produced a series of public service announcements with actor Clint Eastwood and got help from movie theaters to deliver the message.

In the end, the campaign was not effective in preventing teen drug abuse, and the phrase “just say no” has become something of a pop-culture joke.

Since that time, developing effective prevention messages has become a lot more sophisticated. Lessons learned include focusing on the facts about drug abuse so teens can make informed decision for themselves.

Another lesson learned is that teens are much more likely to pay attention when they are involved in the process. The Above the Influence campaign, for example, invites you and your peers to “share your voice” by submitting stories and videos about how drugs may have affected you or someone you know.

Check out the bulletin board at Above the Influence to see what teens are saying about peer pressure and other things. Lynn says, “Giving in is giving up.” Or Bobbi: “We are what we want to be, not what others want us to be, so don’t let the pressure get to you!”

Or as J.J. raps in his post, “Live Your Life:”

What’s the point of doing those drugs,

It just makes u weak, and clouds up ya lungs,

It messes you up, It gets u high,

But then you’ll see, 

That you only did it to die

That’s a powerful message. So, now you tell us—how do you say no to drugs?

Update: Above the Influence has taken down the bulletin board. Share your voice on the Above the Influence Facebook page.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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