Information Dissemination Campaigns


Information dissemination campaigns use mass media (TV, Internet, radio, newspaper, and billboard) to distribute information to the general population.


To raise public awareness of appropriate prescription drug use and to promote safe use of prescription drugs

Typical Elements

  • Campaigns to disseminate information on drug misuse prevention are funded and organized by state or national agencies. The goal of the campaign is to encourage behavioral change.
  • Campaigns are guided by three objectives (Ferri, Allara, Bo, Gasparrini, & Faggiano, 2013):
    • Give warning: Explain the dangers and risks of a range of substances
    • Empower: Illustrate how to contribute to drug misuse prevention through individual behavior (especially for parents), and provide information about where and how to seek support, counseling, and treatment for drug use
    • Support: Provide information about existing prevention interventions or programs, including programs in communities and schools, and programs targeted to families
  • They are based on one of two theoretical models (Ferri et al., 2013):
    • The Health Belief Model posits that individuals' lack of knowledge about the associated health risks and harms of misusing drugs can lead to drug use, and that the provision of factual information on the dangers of drug use should create negative attitudes that will deter use.
    • The Theory of Reasoned Action/Theory of Planned Behavior considers that drug use is a rational decision for many individuals, based on their attitudes toward drugs, their perception of social norms toward drug use, and their perceived ability to control their use. The provision of factual information countering these attitudes should lead individuals to determine that use is not a rational decision.
  • These campaigns vary in terms of target audience, method of delivery, scope, and/or objectives (Ferri et al., 2013):
    • The target audience is usually the general public or, more specifically, the youth population.
    • Delivery methods vary by platform (TV, Internet, radio, print, billboard, classroom, etc.) and content type (advertisement, short film, lecture, interactive course, etc.).
    • The scope can range from individual community efforts to nationwide campaigns.
    • Campaign objectives are driven by the campaign's message (the behavioral change that the campaign is seeking to influence).


General public, youth


  • Although information dissemination campaigns are common, few have been formally evaluated for effectiveness. Campaigns regularly target illegal drugs, but those targeting the abuse of diverted legal drugs are less common (Ferri et al., 2013).
  • A meta-analysis of 15 studies determined that the evidence is inconclusive regarding the effect of information dissemination campaigns on drug use or attitudes toward drug use. The meta-analysis primarily studied campaigns focusing on marijuana use, methamphetamine use, or general illicit drug use; only one campaign was specific to prescription drug abuse prevention (Ferri et al., 2013).
  • The campaign that included prescription drug use as a targeted goal was an Internet-based campaign designed to cover multiple sessions. The campaign targeted Asian American female youth ages 10–14 and their mothers, seeking to reduce the youths' drug use and abuse, including prescription drug abuse. The study found that the campaign was successful in reducing rates of alcohol, marijuana, and illicit prescription drug use (Fang, Schinke, & Cole, 2010).


No guidelines have been found regarding information dissemination campaigns for the general public.

Acknowledged by

Office of National Drug Control Policy. Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis


Fang, L., Schinke, S. P., & Cole, K. C. (2010). Preventing substance use among early Asian-American adolescent girls: Initial evaluation of a web-based, mother-daughter program. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47(5), 529–532. Retrieved from

Ferri, M., Allara, E., Bo, A., Gasparrini, A., & Faggiano, F. (2013). Media campaigns for the prevention of illicit drug use in young people. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 6, Article No. CD009287. Retrieved from