Last week the Montana Office of Public Instruction issued the results from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey showing a 45 percent decline from 2005 in the number of teens who say they have used methamphetamine.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch quickly credited the Montana Meth Project’s (MMP) particular brand of brash and shocking advertising for the change, a sentiment shared by others in Helena.
Joe Lamson, communications director for Montana OPI, also credits MMP for the decline. He cites the high production value of the advertisements as the cause for the decline in usage.
“They designed [ads] like a more extensive advertising campaign, and tested it with their audience,” he says.
In a similar survey conducted in 2005, 8.3 percent of Montana teens claimed to have used meth. The new survey, conducted in February, has that number at 4.6 percent.
But whether the decline should be credited to MMP is less certain than fans of the campaign claim. Laws passed since 2005 limit access to meth ingredients like pseudoephedrine, and meth use in Montana has been declining since 1999. Moreover, national numbers will not be available until next year, which could show the decline as a national trend not isolated to Montana.
Lamson says those are valid criticisms, but points out that the average decline in usage from 1999-2005 was only 15 percent, while the decline since MMP has been three times that dramatic.
“It’s basic prevention principles. You ratchet up the dialogue that’s one piece of the pie,” says Montana Meth Project executive director Peg Shea. “I think the Montana Meth ads create a dialogue.”
However, she concedes, “There’s a fine line between ‘Is it a discussion because of the Montana Meth Project?’ or ‘Is it a discussion about the MMP?’…I think it’s a little of both.”
But at least one fact from the survey did jump out at her as negative.
“Kids’ perception of meth being easy to get a hold of remained unchanged,” she says.