The effectiveness of anti-illicit-drug public-service announcements: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2011 Oct;65(10):834-40. doi: 10.1136/jech.2010.125195. Epub 2011 May 10.


Background: Anti-illicit-drug public-service announcements (PSAs) have become a cornerstone of drug policy in the USA. However, studies of the effectiveness of these interventions have not been subjected to a systematic evaluation.

Methods: The authors searched 10 electronic databases along with major conference abstract databases (from inception until 15 February 2010) for all articles and abstracts that evaluated the effectiveness of anti-illicit-drug PSAs. The authors evaluated all studies that assessed intention to use illicit drugs and/or levels of illicit-drug use after exposure to PSAs, and conducted meta-analyses of these studies.

Results: The authors identified seven randomised trials (n=5428) and four observational trials (n=17 404). Only one randomised trial showed a statistically significant benefit of PSAs on intention to use illicit drugs, and two found evidence that PSAs significantly increased intention to use drugs. A meta-analysis of eligible randomised trials demonstrated no significant effect. Observational studies showed evidence of both harmful and beneficial effects.

Conclusion: Existing evidence suggests that the dissemination of anti-illicit-drug PSAs may have a limited impact on the intention to use illicit drugs or the patterns of illicit-drug use among target populations.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Mass Media*
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Public Health*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • United States


  • Illicit Drugs