In 2015, the Australian government launched the media campaign Ice Destroys Lives targeting crystal methamphetamine use. Previous research indicates mass media campaigns may have harmful effects for people engaged in drug use. This study investigated perceptions and harms of Ice Destroys Lives among adults with a history of injecting drugs and young people.
This analysis includes data from two studies: an online questionnaire with young people and in-depth interviews with adults who use crystal methamphetamine. Young people from Victoria, Australia, were recruited through Facebook. We collected data on drug use, campaign recognition and behaviours. Participants who recognised the campaign indicated whether they agreed with five statements related to Ice Destroys Lives. We compared campaign perceptions between young people who reported ever using crystal methamphetamine and those who did not. Adults who use crystal methamphetamine were sampled from the Melbourne injecting drug user cohort study. We asked participants if they recognised the campaign and whether it represented their experiences.
One thousand twenty-nine young people completed the questionnaire; 71% were female, 4% had used crystal methamphetamine and 69% recognised Ice Destroys Lives. Three quarters agreed the campaign made them not want to use ice. Ever using crystal methamphetamine was associated with disagreeing with three statements including this campaign makes you not want to use ice (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 4.3, confidence interval (CI) = 1.8-10.0), this campaign accurately portrays the risks of ice use (AOR = 3.2, CI = 1.4-7.6) and this campaign makes you think that people who use ice are dangerous (AOR = 6.6, CI = 2.2-19.8). We interviewed 14 people who used crystal methamphetamine; most were male, aged 29-39 years, and most recognised the campaign. Participants believed Ice Destroys Lives misrepresented their experiences and exaggerated “the nasty side” of drug use. Participants felt the campaign exacerbated negative labels and portrayed people who use crystal methamphetamine as “violent” and “crazy”.
In our study, Ice Destroys Lives was widely recognised and delivered a prevention message to young people. However, for people with a history of crystal methamphetamine use, the campaign also reinforced negative stereotypes and did not encourage help seeking. Alternative evidence-based strategies are required to reduce crystal methamphetamine-related harms.
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No specific funding was received for this study. Funding for the MIX study is provided by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Centre for Research Excellence on Injecting Drug Use. The 2016 Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll study was funded by the Burnet Institute. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program received by Burnet Institute. Cassandra Wright is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. Megan Lim is supported by the Jim and Margaret Beever Foundation. Paul Dietze is supported by an ARC Future Fellowship and has received funding from Gilead Sciences and Reckitt Benckiser for work unrelated to this study. The funding bodies were not involved in study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data or in writing the manuscript.