Please tell me why scare tactics don't work in prevention

We are referred to the research that scare tactics don’t work. Perhaps we need to ensure that the evidence base is clear and easily accessible. Maybe it is - please help me if so. Do we define “scare tactics” sufficiently? Do “scare tactics” work for some people? How do or can we “educate” people to see that “scare tactics” are not the way forward for effective prevention?

Jeff, thanks for posting this question. NIDA has a helpful blog on why fear arousal does not always work in prevention messaging Scare Tactics: Does Fear Influence Your Opinion About Drug Abuse?. Youth can be resistant to a message if they feel that it is being exaggerated and overly-dramatized. However, I was interested to see that the NIDA Blog noted that in some cases scare tactics can work for some people. Hopefully more research will be forthcoming or some ISSUP prevention scientists can weigh in. I am interested to know about the effectiveness of the Meth Project (

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very interesting thank you for information Scare Tactics: Does Fear Influence Your Opinion About Drug Abuse? lets me thoroughly go through on NIDA Blog

Many Many thanks
Ahmad Shah

Since long ago, I have been thinking about this topic. Luckily, I just received a notification about a new post from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), that I think will be useful. Some highlights are:

  • “There is evidence to suggest that scaring people can help them adopt or avoid certain behaviors – this is especially true when the proposed negative outcome is paired with an “efficacy method” or something people can do to eradicate the fear.”

  • “But, when it comes to preventing adolescent drug use, the message is clear: fear is not the best answer. In fact, scare tactics may even increase a teen’s likelihood of engaging in an undesirable activity.”

  • “Social scientists believe people, especially teens, may respond counterintuitively to scare tactics, for a variety of reasons, such as: Fear appeals often change attitudes and intentions without causing a change in behavior; People may manage their fear by internally arguing against the fear message instead of paying attention to the message and avoiding the behavior; People often feel like there is nothing they can do about a threat, so they don’t change their behavior; Fear messages often talk about serious but unlikely events, so people may discount or ignore them; Repeated exposure to a fear appeal can lead people to ignore or discount a message; Fear messages often fail to address the well-known potential benefits of engaging in an unhealthy behavior, compromising their effectiveness; Fear appeals often tell people what they already know, which can make them redundant and therefore ineffective”

  • “Instead of fear, teachers, parents and community leaders should consider relying on honest communication to help teens make healthy choices.”

If you would like to read the full post, written by Hannah Freedman, please click on the following electronic address:

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Excellent, thanks for sharing this!

Muy interesante y definitiva mientras mas leemos los conceptos ayudan o tergiversan la comprension de lo que se quiere decir, usamos el término miedo o asustar a la sociedad cuando la intencion es sencibilizar. Hago esta observacion y aclaración porque en la formacion curricular especificamente hablando de México y creo de la gran mayoria de los paises siempre se habla de manera muy simple “de que si consumes cigarro probablemente adquieras cancer de pulmón” si bebes “probablemente cirrosis hepatica” por ejemplo… pero nunca se le enseña al menor a una persona en esas condiciones porque es una imagen traumatica y muy impactante… se espera a que el sujeto ya sea mas grande o tenga la suficiente madurez como para presentarle o enseñarle las condiciones de las personas que han consumido estas sustancias y cuando tenga esa supuesta madurez ya no tiene el mismo impacto o se presta a esta situación de creer que lo queremos asustar.

De igual manera me cuestiono cual es la mejor forma de sensibilizar sin generar miedo, pero de mostrarle efectivamente a la sociedad cuales son las consecuencias del consumo…en este texto solo mencione del alcohol y el tabaco pero cada sustancia tiene sus caracteristicas propias, sus sintomatologias, dependiendo de la constitucion fisica, edad, sexo, etc etc. Y cada una de estas caracteristicas es importante que las conozcan para qie sepan de que manera puedeb intervenir en la recuperación del individuo.