The Dangers of Scare Tactics in Prevention for Youth


Scare tactics are commonly used in drug prevention campaigns to discourage individuals from engaging in drug use. However, research suggests that scare tactics can actually have negative consequences, including desensitization to the message, increased risk-taking behavior, and decreased trust in the sources delivering the message. This abstract will explore the dangers of scare tactics in drug prevention and highlight alternative approaches that may be more effective in promoting healthy decision-making and reducing drug use. The use of scare tactics as an approach to drug prevention is a controversial topic. This paper examines the effectiveness of scare tactics in drug prevention and its potential consequences. The paper explores the evidence-based effectiveness of scare tactics and the implications of using scare tactics in drug prevention. It examines the ethical implications of using scare tactics, including the potential to increase stigma and create fear-based reactions. The paper also assesses the potential for scare tactics to lead to unintended consequences, including increased risk-taking behavior and reduced trust in health professionals. In conclusion, this paper argues that scare tactics should not be used in drug prevention and that more effective, evidence-based approaches should be employed instead. Scare tactics are messages that use fear to persuade people to change their attitudes or behaviors. While fear-based messages can be effective, the evidence is mixed. One study found that fear-based messages were more effective at persuading people to wear sunscreen than messages that focused on the benefits of sunscreen. However, other studies have found that fear-based messages can backfire, leading to a decrease in the desired behavior. For example, a study of smoking cessation campaigns found that messages focusing on the dangers of smoking were less effective than messages focusing on the benefits of quitting. In general, research suggests that fear-based messages can be effective in certain contexts, such as when the consequences of a behavior are severe and the message is credible. However, fear-based messages should be used with caution, as they can also be ineffective or even counterproductive.

Year Manuscript Completed

Spring 2023

Senior Project Advisor

Dr. Scott Douglas

Degree Awarded

Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Field of Study


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