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Little White Lies

Western Australian data reveals that only 22% of young people aged 15-24 years reported using illicit drugs in the last 12 months (2019) (1). For more information visit the statistics page.

The Drug Aware ‘Little White Lies’ campaign is the second phase of the Generic Drugs ‘78% Don’t Use’ campaign which initially launched on 18 August 2019 and ran on social media, online, radio and out-of-home media. ‘Little White Lies’ aligns to the Drug Aware’s Action Area One which aims to reduce to reduce and delay intent to use illicit drugs. Young people tend to over-estimate the number of other young people who use drugs. They also overestimate the number of young people who think that using drugs is acceptable and normal. We know that correcting misinformation is really important when providing information about alcohol and other drugs (2) (3), which is why the “Little White Lies” campaign is so important.

The developing brain 

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for decision making, impulse control and working memory (4). This part of the brain is still developing during adolescence right up until the age of 25. This impacts decision making, because the developing brain can underestimate risk and overestimate pleasure. This is why adolescence is often described as a time when people can be impulsive, and might be more inclined to seek out risky, pleasure-orientated experiences. For some, this might include experimenting with alcohol and other drugs (5) (6).

Young people are also more susceptible to peer pressure

During adolescence, young people are highly susceptible to peer influence and the belief that some behaviours are normal, or a ‘rite of passage’. Peers influence each other through something called ‘pluralistic ignorance’(7). In relation to using drugs, refers to young people choosing to use drugs and alcohol because they mistakenly believe most of their peers are (8). Further, many young people worry about how they are viewed by their peers, and also overestimate the degree to which others are concerned with them (9). They have also been found to be more likely to take risks in the presence of their peers (10). With all these factors in mind, we know that raising awareness about how many young people don’t use drugs is a really important and effective strategy in alcohol and other drug education (11).

Preventing drug related harm for young people both now and in the future

The campaign aims to challenge the misconceptions young people have about drug use, to help them make informed decisions and not feel pressured to use just because they think ‘everyone else is doing it’.

Campaign objectives

The ‘Little White Lies’ campaign targets the social norms element of behaviour change theory and aims to:

  • Increase the knowledge among young people that 4 out of 5 people aged 15-24 years don't use illicit drugs.
  • Increase the belief that drug use during adolescence is not the 'norm'. 

Target Group

Primary: the campaign aims to target those from the age of 16-22 years of age who are:

  • using drugs now;
  • thinking about using drugs; or 
  • will be in a situation where drugs are offered. 

Key Messages

Most young people don’t use drugs.

Campaign Materials

Community Toolkit

Video animations 

90 sec 

60 sec

30 sec

15 sec v1

15 sec v2

Audio

90 sec

30 sec

 

References

  1. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2019. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 report. State and territory factsheets. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health Welfare. Viewed 10 June 2021. 

  2. McBride N, Farringdon F, Midford R, et al. Harm minimization in school drug education: final results of the school health and alcohol harm reduction project (SHAHRP). Addiction 2004;99:278–91.

  3. Nation M, Crusto C, Wandersman A, et al. What works in prevention: principles of effective prevention programs. American Psychologist 2003;58:449–56.

  4. Giedd JN, Blumenthal J, Jeffries NO et al. Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study. Nat Neurosci 1999;2:861–3.

  5. Debenham, J., Newton, N., Birrell, L., & Askovic, M. (2019). Alcohol and other drug prevention for older adolescents: It's a no brainer. Drug and Alcohol Review, 38(4), 327-330. doi:10.1111/dar.12914 (p.328).

  6. Lupton, D. and J. Tulloch (2002). "'Risk is a Part of Your Life': Risk Epistemologies among a Group of Australians." Sociology 36(2): 317-334.

  7. Debenham, J., Newton, N., Birrell, L., & Askovic, M. (2019). Alcohol and other drug prevention for older adolescents: It's a no brainer. Drug and Alcohol Review, 38(4), 327-330. doi:10.1111/dar.12914 (p.328).

  8. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2018). Drugs and Age. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/prelaunch/WDR18_Booklet_4_YOUTH.pdf (p.27, 33).

  9. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2018a, p.27).

  10.  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2018). Drugs and Age. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/prelaunch/WDR18_Booklet_4_YOUTH.pdf (p.27, 33).

  11. Debenham J, Birrell L, Champion K, et al. A pilot study of a neuroscience-based, harm minimisation programme in schools and youth centres in Australia. BMJ Open 2020;10:e033337. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2019-033337.

  12. Huba G, Bentler P. The role of peer and adult models for drug taking at different stages in adolescence. J Youth Adolec 1980;9;4949-65.

  13. Debenham J, Newton N, Birrell L, Askovic, A. Alcohol and other drug prevention for older adolescents: It’s a no brainer. Drug and Alcohol Review 2019.

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