Saturday, January 23, 2010

Idaho Meth Project

The Idaho Meth Project is claiming success in changing the attitudes of teens regarding the effects of using methamphetamine. Governor Otter is proposing spending $500,000 in FY 2011.

Social scientists like myself are skeptical of claims of causality. The project clams that its advertising campaign is producing the change in attitudes but reports only a four percent change from previous surveys on the question of the source of information about meth. Respondents do report an increase in seeing ads, but there is no causal proof that this project has been responsible for the reported shift in attitudes. There seems to be no attempt to eliminate rival causal factors.

One possible explanation is found in the decline in the perception of the availability of meth. If the drug becomes less available, the purity declines, or the price spikes, users may move onto other drugs. Has the same thing happened to teen attitudes because they and their peers have moved onto another drug?

A greater threat to the claims of success is the assumption that changing attitudes results in behavior changes. According to the study, reported meth usage has not changed since the previous survey (p. 33). The Project could claim success in that usage has not increased, but then we run into the problem of causality again.

I need to read the report in its entirety,but my initial reading leads me to pose the following question: why does the governor want to spend $500,000 more on a project that is, by its own report, not having any impact on meth usage?

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