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Montana Meth Project

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Community-painted anti-meth mural in Drummond, Montana

The Montana Meth Project (MMP) is a Montana-based non-profit organization founded by businessman Thomas Siebel which seeks to reduce methamphetamine use, particularly among teenagers. The main venture of the MMP is a saturation-level advertising campaign of television, radio, print, and Internet ads that graphically depict the negative consequences of methamphetamine use.[1] Common elements are the deterioration of each teenage subject's health and living conditions, amphetamine psychosis, moral compromise, and regret. As of 2010, the Meth Project has expanded its media campaign into seven additional states.[2] As of March 13, 2013 the Meth Project, the umbrella organization of the Montana Meth Project, joined the Partnership at in their efforts to reduce substance abuse among teens.[3]

Effectiveness of the ads

A new study was published in the Journal of Marketing Research validating the effectiveness of the Meth Project’s advertising in deterring substance abuse. The study was authored by researchers at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.[4]

The researchers tested the effectiveness of several advertisements—including the Meth Project’s—and found that ads that relied on fear alone to convey their message did not lead to immediate changes in attitudes or behavior. However, according to the study, the Meth Project ads that incorporated an element of “disgust,” such as rotting teeth, skin sores or infections, did compel viewers to “undertake distancing behaviors,” such as deciding not to use illegal drugs.[4]

The study concludes that, "notably, the disgust and fear appeal condition in this study used an actual advertisement from the Montana Meth Project, a nationally recognized, award-winning program that uses high-impact advertising to reduce methamphetamine use . . . It was only the disgust-inducing fear appeal [the Meth Project ad] that significantly reduced future drug use, making it more effective in terms of persuasion and compliance.”[4]

While the effectiveness of the campaign at reducing methamphetamine use is disputed,[5][6] in 2010, the Meth Project was named the third most effective philanthropy in the world,[7] up from #5 in 2009 on Barron's yearly rankings.[8][9] In its efforts to effectively reach teens and change attitudes and behaviors toward meth, the MMP regularly conducts focus group research to refine its messaging and better understand how to connect with the state's youth.[10] HBO has also partnered with the MMP on a documentary as part of its Addiction series.[11]

Two surveys have been conducted that have investigated methamphetamine use amongst teenagers in Montana before and after the launch of the Meth Project's ads.[12] The first survey is the CDC's youth risk behavior survey (YBRS). The YRBS data are listed below.

YRBS Data - Percentage of Montana Teens who have ever used meth:[12]

1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009
13.5% 12.6% 9.3% 8.3% 4.6% 3.1%

The YRBS data indicates that teenage meth use in Montana has declined since the Meth Project’s ad campaign was launched in 2005. The absolute drop in meth use since the ad campaign was introduced in 2005 is 5.2% - larger than any prior four-year period.[13] However, the YRBS data also shows that meth use was dropping for at least 6 years prior to the launch of the ad campaign.

The other survey of teen meth use has been conducted by the Meth Project.[12] The data from the Meth Project's survey are listed below.

2005 2006 2007 2008
2% 6% 4% 3%

According to the MMP's figures, before the ad campaign (2005), only 2% of teenagers had ever used meth. Six months after the launch of the ad campaign (2006), 6% reported using meth. In contrast to the YRBS data, the MMP's figures indicate that the percentage of teenagers using meth in Montana increased following the launch of the ad campaign. By 2008, 3% of teenagers reported using meth, still more than before the ad campaign commenced. However, the 2005 and 2006 MMP figures were based on un-weighted data that was tabulated from a total of 329 and 419 survey participants, respectively.[14][15] In contrast, the 2007 and 2008 MMP data was weighted and compiled from 2,335 and 2,334 participants, respectively.[16][17]

In press materials, the Meth Project commonly cites YRBS figure of a 45% decrease in meth use between 2005 and 2007. However the absolute drop for the period was 3.7%. In contrast, the Meth Project's own data for the same period show a 2% absolute increase in meth use, or a 100% relative increase.[12] The 2009 YRBS results for Montana showed meth use declining an additional 32% to 3.1%, or a total reduction of 62%.[13]

According to a 2007 Montana State Office of Public Instruction Report,[18] since the inception of the program in 2005, there has also been a 72% relative decrease in adult methamphetamine use, and a 62% relative decline in methamphetamine-related crimes.[19] Additionally, the percentage of teenagers who are aware of meth’s dangers increased from 25% to 93%, and Montana’s ranking among U.S. states in meth abuse fell from #5 to #39.[20]

Office of National Drug Control Policy report

In November 2006, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) published a report, Pushing Back Against Meth: A Progress Report on the Fight,[21] highlighting the impact of recently enacted State and Federal laws, such as the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) of 2005, that restricted transactions for the over the counter drugs that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. Based on the results of Quest Diagnostics' preliminary review of workplace drug tests conducted during the first five months of 2006, the nationwide adult usage of meth declined by 12% when compared to the same period in 2005. Quest provided state-level results: on the state level, results varied according to the strictness and duration of the states' laws. "Montana’s methamphetamine precursor law went into effect July 1, 2005. The Montana law is stricter than the CMEA in several important respects."[18][21] Montana’s workplace drug testing results showed a 69.4% decrease in positive tests for amphetamine. Montana's Attorney General [22][23] and the MMP[19] attribute Montana's decrease in adult meth usage to the MMP. However, the ONDCP reported: "The primary reason for this positive trend is the enactment of various State laws...which implemented restrictions on transactions involving products containing certain chemicals (primarily, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) that can be used to make methamphetamine."[21] However, the Attorney General countered, "The Montana Meth Project’s theoretical framework is based upon the prevention principles that individuals who believe that the use of a particular drug involves risk or harm and/or who disapprove of its use are less likely to use that drug. As seen in last year’s report, both the Montana Prevention Needs Assessment and the Meth Use & Attitudes Survey show that Montana teens perceive a much greater risk in trying meth than do their counterparts nationally. Since 2005, the perception of specific negative effects resulting from meth use has changed. Among teens, risks such as stealing, lack of attention to personal hygiene, and tooth decay increased significantly (11%, 7.5%, and 19% respectively). In this time, societal disapproval of meth use has also greatly increased in the state, with teens (87%), young adults (83%) and parents (97%) now voicing “strong” disapproval of trying meth even once or twice. Perhaps most importantly, parent-child discussions about the dangers posed by meth use have increased in number and frequency."[23]

Prevention Science critical review

A critical review of the Montana Meth Project's advertising campaign was published in the peer-review journal Prevention Science[24] in December 2008. The review examined the Meth Project's statistical methodology and data reporting. The review found that the Meth Project had selectively reported their research findings, focusing on unrepresentative positive findings and ignoring data suggesting that the campaign may be associated with harmful outcomes. The review found that the Meth Project's data suggests that exposure to the graphic ads may lead to an increase in the percentage of teenagers who believe that taking meth is socially acceptable and not dangerous. Such 'boomerang' effects in response to persuasive, graphic ads are not uncommon, and are predicted by the theory of psychological reactance.

The critical review found that the selective reporting of results by the Meth Project has led the media, politicians and the public to form distorted and inaccurate beliefs about the campaign's effectiveness. The public believes that the ad campaign is far more effective than the Meth Project's research findings indicate. The main recommendation of the review was that public funding and additional 'roll-outs' of the program should cease until its effectiveness can be scientifically examined. The review concluded: "Politicians, the media, and prevention researchers also need to ensure that in future they critically evaluate any research released by the MMP, rather than assuming the organization’s press releases (and reports) are presenting data in a fair and balanced way. It is recommended that any future reports documenting the results of MMP’s use and attitudes surveys include complete statistical analyses for every question in the survey. This is because researchers and policymakers making decisions about MMP-style graphic advertising campaigns need access to all evidence, rather than a subset of findings that portray the MMP in a positive light.”[24]

Government funding and expansion

Many in the Montana state legislature hailed the project as an unprecedented success, and moved to fund the previously privately funded project with tax dollars.[25] The move to provide public funding for the Meth Project was opposed by some legislators and drug prevention and treatment professionals, who asserted that the Meth Project's effectiveness is unproven and that research shows that these type of media campaigns are ineffective.[25] However, the Bush Administration praised the MMP as a "model for the nation."[26] As of 2009, the campaign has expanded to include the Arizona Meth Project, Idaho Meth Project, Illinois Meth Project, Wyoming Meth Project, Colorado Meth Project, and Hawaii Meth Project. The Georgia Meth Project was founded in 2009 with a planned launch in early 2010.[19]

The governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, announced that he would review public funding for the Meth Project in early 2009, as a result of a critical review of the Meth Project published in an academic journal, which called for public funding of the Meth Project to be put on hold.[27][28] In February 2009, the Montana legislature came under increased pressure to withdraw funding to the Meth Project after an analysis of Meth Project tax forms revealed that the Project spends large amounts of money on staff salaries and website costs. In May 2009, Schweitzer chose not to support an additional $500,000 proposed by state legislators for 2009-10, "given the economically difficult times," and stated that the Project would have to become "self-supporting" in the future.[29] The Project was granted $500,000 for the next budget period.

March Against Meth

The March Against Meth was a demonstration and rally in Helena, Montana on February 16, 2009. Over 2,300 students of all ages from across Montana marched from Helena High School to the Capitol where they delivered over 55,000 signatures of Montanans requesting funding from the Montana legislature for the project. It was the largest youth demonstration in Montana's history. The Meth Project and its supporters requested $2 million in state funding to continue to bring the "Not Even Once" message to Montana teens.[30][31]

The March was criticized by some Montanans, who suggested some teenagers were lured to attend due to free giveaways of iPods and the presence of a blackhawk helicopter.[32] The Montana media were also criticized for preannouncing the rally as a success before it had even taken place.[33]

Paint the State

Paint the State is a public art competition initiated by The Meth Project. The large-scale community action program, launched in Montana[34] and Idaho [35] in 2010, empowers teenagers to create artwork with a strong anti-Meth message that is clearly visible to the general public. Contestants are asked to use the Meth Project’s “Meth: Not Even Once” tagline, logo or any other anti-Meth theme, to create art of any style and medium. The current 2010 campaigns are modeled after Montana’s largely successful Paint the State 2006[36] contest, which inspired art from every county in the state for a total of over 650 works of art. The overwhelming response made Paint the State the largest public art contest in history. Entries in 2006 featured 12 languages, 47 art vehicles, 78 T-shirts, over 380 banners and flags and even a painted sheep.

Television ads

All 19 television spots were conceived by San Francisco-based advertising agency Venables Bell & Partners. The 2005 and 2006 spots were directed by Tony Kaye, the 2007 spots by Darren Aronofsky, the 2008 spots by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and the 2010 spots by Wally Pfister.

2005-2006: Directed by Tony Kaye

Tony Kaye's spots feature themes of meth-addicted teens' moral compromises and regret, and certain teens' false confidence that they can use meth without becoming addicted. Bathtub, Laundromat and Everything Else feature pre-addicted teens encountering future, addicted versions of themselves. Just Once, That Guy and Junkie Den feature teens who promise themselves that they will only try meth "once," but find they cannot hold to their vow ... and in some of the spots, are told what they now have to look forward to. Crash and Jumped feature teens who imply that terrible events, such as the violent attack ("Jumped") or a car accident ("Crashed") would have been a better fate than being a meth addict and unable to quit.

Wave 1

  • Bathtub - A teenage girl in her bathrobe talks on her cell phone while looking into her bathroom mirror. She says, "yeah, my parents think I'm sleeping at your house". She hangs up and gets into the shower. While showering, she looks down and sees a trickle of blood. She turns around and screams; there is a pockmarked, bleeding version of herself shivering at the bottom of the shower, who pleads, "don't do it."
  • Just Once - A teen girl declares that she is only trying meth "once", leading to a sequence of further compromises to support her addiction, including stealing and prostitution, each of which she promises will be "just once." The ad ends with the girl unconscious on her bed in a meth-induced haze, while her pre-teen sister steals her meth and whispers, "I'm going to try meth, just once."
  • Laundromat - A deranged, addicted young man runs into a laundromat and demands the money of everyone inside, beating a man to the floor and screaming in the faces of women and children. He then runs to a young man in the corner, grabs him by the collar, and shouts "this wasn't supposed to be your life!" The assailant and his last victim are the same young man.
  • That Guy - A teen boy states "I'm going to try meth just once, I'm not gonna be like that guy." He gestures towards an anonymous person, who deteriorates further, finally ending up shaking and sweating on a drug dealer's makeshift van-seat "couch". We see "that guy" is the boy, deformed after months of meth use. A teen girl purchases from the dealer, saying "I'm gonna try meth just once, I'm not gonna be like that guy," indicating the now-wretched boy.

Wave 2

  • Crash - A car is driving in the rain at night. The tire explodes, and the car flips over. In narration, the teenage driver wishes that she had crashed on her way to "that party", even if she were to have broken her neck and become paralyzed, because it would have prevented her from trying meth. The girl, now addicted (and deformed), smokes the drug in a filthy, run-down apartment, in which she says "now this is my life."
  • Everything Else - A girl approaches a group of people who are smoking meth, and requests some for herself. The dealer gives her the drug, as well as "everything else" that comes with it. He aggressively saddles her with an intimidating drug dealer, "meth boyfriends" who rape her, an addicted baby, and in a mirror, he shows her her bleeding "meth face."
  • Jumped - A younger teen boy is chased through a parking lot by three older males, who beat him to the ground and kick him. In narration, the boy wishes he had been assaulted that night, because then he would not have tried meth. The worst of the three assailants raises a cinder block high over his head, threatening to drop it on the boy and crush his skull. The camera cuts to a drug den, where the boy, shaking, vomiting and decayed says sadly, "now all I do is meth."
  • Junkie Den - In a shadowy drug den, a young boy tries meth for the first time. He is congratulated by filthy, depraved, drug-addicted people, who describe his future life as "one of us." One woman says that they will "shoot up together," two addicted men say that they and the boy will "steal together... and we'll be sleepin' together, too." The boy's protest that he is only trying it once is met with howls of laughter.

2007: Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Each of the spots directed by Darren Aronofsky features a voice-over spoken by the teen featured in the spot. In voice-over, each teen talks about how strong their relationships are with their friends and family, and how important those relationships are to them. The action on screen demonstrates that if a person becomes addicted to meth, their addiction will destroy even their strongest relationships -- or, in one case, turn it into a twisted version of what that relationship is supposed to be.

Wave 3

  • Boyfriend - At a hotel room, a teen-aged girl is lying on the bed; an older man is seen finishing zipping up his pants and walking out the door, handing items -- presumably money and a stash of meth -- to a younger man standing outside. The younger man is revealed to be the girl's boyfriend, who holds the girl as he inspects the money and drug stash. The girl cringes and weeps, her mascara running, leaving to the viewer to decide whether she had been raped. The girl's narration explains, "I love my boyfriend, we've been together since, like, eighth grade. He takes care of me."
  • Friends - The scene pans around the car as three of its occupants, including the driver, rush a fourth passenger, who is slumped over in the back seat, to the hospital. As she is being dumped on the curb in front of the hospital's emergency room, the narrator - who turns out to be the unconscious passenger - explains she is "tight with her friends" and they "always look out for me". After pulling her unresponsive body out of the car, the teenagers speed off as the ER staff attends to the girl.
  • Mother - A teenage boy - who in narration explains how much he loves his mother - is seen stealing money from his mother's purse. The mother enters the room but when she tries to stop her, he strikes her to the floor. She tries to clamp onto his leg but he kicks free and runs from the house, leaving her to sob on the floor.
  • Parents - A teenage boy, on an apparent drug high, tries to get into his parents' house but finds the door locked. He shouts "I'm sorry, Dad!" before kicking at the door and screaming threats. Inside, the boy's distraught mother and father embrace before turning out the light and going to bed. The boy, in narration, talks about how he's always been really close with his parents.

2008: Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Each of the spots by Alejandro González Iñárritu features a teen or teens who appear to be normal and healthy in the beginning of the spot, but who appear pockmarked, bleeding, and addicted at the end, despite the fact that time passes normally. As each teen encounters their downfall—prostitution, robbery, or overdose—a narrator intones the simple phrase: "This isn't normal... but on meth, it is."

Wave 4

This wave of commercials begins with bright, sunny scenes that devolve quickly into scenes depicting assault, sex and terror. "This isn't normal," the voiceover begins, "but on meth, it is."

  • Family - What starts out as three smiling, clean-cut teen boys who appear to be making a visit to a friend's house switches quickly to a home invasion, where the culprits assault the mother and father, shouts at the daughter until she drops to the floor in terror and all three flee the house with electronics and other expensive items in their hands.
  • O.D. - Teen-agers are watching what appears to be a lighthearted show on television, unaware that one of their friends is gasping, sweating and in severe convulsions. The camera pans into a mirror near the floor where the boy is laying, where viewers see that everything is actually taking place in a run-down apartment, the teens too stoned to even notice the overdosing boy.
  • Shadow - A young man named Anthony, looking nervously around the house, informs his mother that "They're out there!" before flying into an uncontrolled frenzy and destroying everything in sight. His mother flees the room in terror and locks herself in a study as he smashes a bat into the door, threatening to kill her.
  • Sisters - Two clean-cut girls, one about 15 and the other 12, approach three men at a gas station. The older girl propositions the men for sex, after which one of the men points at the younger, middle-school-aged girl and asks, "What about her?" to which the older girl consents to pimping her out. The scene ends in the filthy bathroom, the reflection of what is about to happen being shown through the mirror.

2010: Directed by Wally Pfister

Wave 5

In this round of work, directed by Wally Pfister, we hear friends of meth addicts tell stories of how they watched their friend’s lives get destroyed by the drug. In each spot, the teen's narration is accompanied by footage of said incidents taking place. Each spot ends with the following statement: "...and this is what I said, when they told me they were going to try meth," followed by anguished silence and a blank stare into the camera ... to mean they had an opportunity to stop their friend from trying meth but said nothing.

The commercials were titled:

  • "Ben," who nearly dies of one overdose and ultimately kills himself.
  • "Jessica," where a former cheerleader forces her younger brother to smoke meth with her.
  • "Kevin," who seriously injured his best friend in a fight, used scissors to dig into his skin (thinking he was infested with insects) and is now institutionalized.
  • "Tracy," who stole from her employer, prostituted herself and gave birth to a meth-addicted baby two months prematurely.

2011: "What Do You Know About Meth?"

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, this series depicts teenagers asking the question, "If I had asked, if I tried meth, would I become an addict ... " if they knew it would bring them to situations they never thought they'd be in. Each commercial begins with slow-motion photography of the addict's face before their situation plays out.

Wave 6

  • Deep End - A 16-year-old girl is shown in front of a bathroom mirror, bruises and pockmarks slowly appearing, before the view cuts to the girl struggling with another woman - presumably her mother - fighting with her at the sink. The scene reveals that the girl has cut her wrists and is bleeding heavily into the sink, which is full of water.
  • Desperate - A 15-year-old boy, who is seen removing his shirt, is seen to be in a darkened hotel room, waiting to pimp out his body for meth. As he nervously sits on the bed, a seedy, creepy-looking man in his early 30s sits down on the bed next to him. The commercial ends as the man reaches for the back of his head ... leaving what happens next to the imagination of the viewer.
  • E.R. - Where a young girl is rushed to an emergency room bay, convulsing and screaming in pain, as a teen-aged girl that brought her there watches through the door. Instead of remaining at the hospital out of concern for her friend, the girl calmly walks away; the final scene shows the girl getting into a car and telling the driver to "load me up again," as though nothing is wrong or that she couldn't or wouldn't see the effects meth had on her friend.
  • Losing Control - The commercial begins with a close-up of a 10-year-old boy, who is thrown against a wall so hard that the shelf and several books on it come crashing down on top of him. The boy's drug-crazed brother is in the room, screaming and tearing apart everything and demanding money before he grabs him and violently shaking him.

2012: "Personal Stories"

Wave 7

This set of six commercials are testimonials from former meth users, who each explain the consequences they faced when using. Surreal drawings are used to visualize the stories. The commercials are titled:

  • Ashley's Story - A teen-aged girl recalls slitting her wrists, believing insects were crawling out of her. She also reflects on her changed physical appearance.
  • Bernadette's Story - Days after introducing her best friend to the drug, the friend commits suicide.
  • Hailey's Story - Physical consequences: Her teeth and hair began falling out, and her face was pockmarked with sores.
  • Kara's Story - Who nearly died after overdosing on the drug; her heart beat rapidly and she began coughing up blood. The scary part for Kara, she explains, is that her "friends" were too high to notice that her life was in danger.
  • Oriah's Story, who explains that he became violent and, in a rage, assaulted his mother. He said that something like that you can't take back, and can't forgive himself for doing said action.
  • Rochelle's Story, reflecting on how just three days of using meth, she began to develop paranoia and schizophrenia, including seeing people/faces that aren't there and hearing voices that don't exist.

See also


  1. ^ View Ads
  2. ^ About Us, Montana Meth Project
  3. ^ Meth Project Foundation joins Partnership at, The Montana Standard March 13, 2013
  4. ^ a b c How Disgust Enhances the Effectiveness of Fear Appeals, Journal of Marketing Research, March, 2012
  5. ^ Success Of Anti-meth Ads Questioned By Study, ScienceDaily, December 11, 2008
  6. ^ Benefits of graphic anti-meth ads questioned, Reuters, December 19, 2008
  7. ^ The 25 Best Givers, Barron's 2010, December 4, 2010
  8. ^ The Top 25 Best Philanthropists, Barron's 2009, November 28, 2009
  9. ^ Meth Project Foundation gets high Barron’s rank, Billings Gazette, November 30, 2009
  10. ^ Don’t Allow Methamphetamine to Ruin Your Life, Psychology Today, September 2, 2009
  11. ^ Montana Meth
  12. ^ a b c d Statement of David Erceg-Hurn to Governor Schweitzer and Montana Legislature regarding funding of Montana Meth Project in 2009 budget, February 09, 2009
  13. ^ a b 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Montana Office of Public Instruction
  14. ^ 2005 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
  15. ^ 2006 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
  16. ^ 2007 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
  17. ^ 2008 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
  18. ^ a b Montana State Office of Public Instruction Report
  19. ^ a b c The Meth Project Fact Sheet
  20. ^ Catalytic Philanthropy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2009
  21. ^ a b c Pushing Back Against Meth: A Progress Report on the Fight Against Methamphetamine in the United States, Office of National Drug Control Policy, November 30, 2006
  22. ^ Methamphetamine in Montana: A Preliminary Report on Trends and Impact January, 2007.
  23. ^ a b Methamphetamine in Montana A Follow-up Report on Trends and Progress. April, 2008.
  24. ^ a b Erceg-Hurn, David M. (August 7, 2008). "Drugs, Money, and Graphic Ads: A Critical Review of the Montana Meth Project". Prevention Science 9 (4): 256–263. doi:10.1007/s11121-008-0098-5. ISSN 1573-6695. PMID 18686033. 
  25. ^ a b An expensive habit: State pledges $2 million to Montana Meth Project, Missoula Independent, April 19, 2007
  26. ^ Press Release - White House Cites Montana Meth Project as Model For The Nation
  27. ^ Governor Wants More Information on Meth Project Study, Associated Press, December 19, 2008 (originally here)
  28. ^ Meth Project Study Author Declines Visit, by Matt Gouras (Associated Press), Great Falls Tribune, December 20, 2008 (originally here )
  29. ^ Veto Pen: Schweitzer Cuts Some Meth Project Funding and Welcome Home Program, May 14, 2009
  30. ^ Montana Meth Project MAM Release, Montana Meth Project
  31. ^ Helena IR 21609, Montana Meth Project
  32. ^ Montana Meth Project, Electric City Weblog, January 1, 2009
  33. ^ More Montana Meth PR Before the Rally: The Gazette Pre-Announces a Successful Rally!, Intelligent Discontent, February 16, 2009
  34. ^ Paint the State Montana Paint the State Montana
  35. ^ Paint the State Idaho Paint the State Idaho
  36. ^ Paint the State 2006 Paint the State 2006


External links