Top 10 Weirdest Anti-Drug Campaigns of the 80s and 90s



Top 10 Weirdest Anti-Drug Campaigns of the 80s and 90s

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
Drugs can be weird, but these anti-drug campaigns were on a whole other level. For this list, we'll be looking at the strangest efforts to deter people from drug use in the early 80s and 90s … so strange they just might have scared you straight! Our countdown includes Mr. T Shakes Some Sense Into You, Mario Says You'll Go to Hell, This Is Your Brain on Drugs, and more!

Top 10 Weirdest 80s and 90s Anti-Drug Campaigns

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Weirdest 80s and 90s Anti-Drug Campaigns.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the strangest efforts to deter people from drug use in the early 80s and 90s … so strange they just might have scared you straight!

What anti-drug PSAs have haunted you throughout the years? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

#10: A 13 Year Old’s Day

In the 1990s, the Partnership to End Addiction, then known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, created this piece hoping to educate parents on what it’s like to be a 13-year-old. It features the people you would least expect to offer you drugs doing just that: your local restaurant shop-owner, the flower shop guy, someone who we can assume is your grandma? The worst of it is probably the man in the fruit aisle calling the audience sexy, but we don’t talk about him. While this was a good effort to put parents in the shoes of their kids, this PSA does come off a little wackier than it was probably supposed to.

#9: Mr T. Shakes Some Sense Into You

If Mr. T got in your face about anything, there’s a good chance you’d listen! We join the former A-Team star sitting in a diner, where he’s visibly angry about the prospect of young people doing drugs. Things quickly escalate as he gets very passionate about the subject, breaking a glass with his bare hand and shaking the camera around. One thing’s for sure: we’d never want to anger Mr. T! His tough guy persona drills the message home with a great balance between humor and authenticity. Although, we can’t say we appreciate the manhandling. You’re causing a scene Mr. T! Please put us down!

#8: Turtle Power

You know what’s totally radical? Saying no to drugs! We join Joey, a kid by his locker, who’s being pressured into trying weed. We then cut away to an old-fashioned TV on wheels where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themselves are on screen! They help the classroom decide how to best deal with the situation. It's PSA-ception! Joey makes the right choice, but his comeback definitely falls flat. He gets called a chicken and he responds with… well, this: [“I’m not a chicken! You’re a turkey!”] Still, the idea of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles judging you for doing drugs is definitely pretty powerful!

#7: Hip Choice

Go ahead and add drug-dealing puppets to the list of things you have to protect your kids from nowadays. The Canadian non-profit organization Companies Committed to Kids, formerly known as Concerned Children's Advertisers, produced this short in 1993, looking to help kids say no when they’re offered drugs. And, while the message is there, having these puppets deliver the message is uncanny. If they wanted to scare kids out of drugs, the drug dealer’s eyes alone are probably enough to do that. Seriously, is he possessed or something? Or maybe a trip to the optometrist is just what the doctor ordered. Either way, this dude was “just not worth the time”.

#6: Straight Up

Have your parents ever tried to use slang from your generation and failed miserably? That is this commercial. Two rappers warn about the dangers that come with dealing drugs. Yes, there’s [“the gold and the diamond rings”] but, as they point out, it’s not worth jail time! It’s clear this music video was trying to appeal to the younger generation with a catchy tune and, honestly? It’s kind of a bop! Don’t get us wrong, it’s definitely still cringey, but maybe that was the intention… keep producing cringey content until people stop? While this ad is actually pretty uplifting, the threat of jail time was pretty scary! Straight-up, yo!

#5: Mario Says You’ll Go to Hell

It was a common practice back in the 80s for celebrities to make appearances in PSAs, in order to help spread awareness. In this ad, professional wrestler Lou Albano, who played the titular plumber on “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!”, is featured. We’re not saying Captain Lou’s passion wasn’t effective - but it is a little unsettling, especially when he says that drug users go to hell before they die. Also, in hindsight, maybe Mario was a weird choice for an anti-drug campaign, what with all the mushrooms he consumes...

#4: Pee-Wee Herman Talks Crack

Paul Reubens’ Pee-Wee Herman character is known for his childlike skits and behaviour. So, imagine him, with his rosy cheeks and little red bowtie, sitting down and getting real about the dangers of crack! Seeing such a silly character talking about such a serious topic is incredibly jarring, but that’s probably what the creators were going for. We don’t want to upset Mr. Herman! On the other hand, it’s also just a little funny if you’re not in his show’s age rating anymore. To be fair, this was the result of community service after Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult movie theatre. We ruin your childhood yet?

#3: Snake the Dealer

This advert is something straight out of “Goosebumps”! Back in 1986, the Partnership For a Drug-Free America created this PSA. Meet Snake, your local drug dealer. As he offers you every drug under the sun, he starts to transform into a terrifying snake/human hybrid. Pretty traumatizing if you’re a kid just trying to get in some late-night cartoons before bed. Looking back, however, it’s a little ridiculous. Someone definitely took the religious symbol of snakes a little too far. Imagine buying from a dealer who just starts hissing at you midway through the transaction… We take it back. That is terrifying!

#2: Like Father, Like Son

Everyone dreads conversations like this, but this one in particular has somewhat of an unexpected twist (if the title didn’t give it away). A father confronts his son after finding some ambiguous drug-related items in his closet. The kid tries to explain, but the dad is having none of it. After he asks who taught him to use it, the boy responds: [“I learned it from watching you”]. It’s not funny, it’s not… but also, it is a little! That classic 80s over-acting really sells it. While it is a serious topic, the moment became so notorious, people have been parodying it ever since.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Stop It, Get Some Help”
Michael Jordan & McDonald’s Tell You to Just Stop

Superman to the Rescue!
Say No to Drugs & You Might Get a Lift Home From Superman!

#1: This Is Your Brain on Drugs

In 1987, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America brought us a video that would stand the test of time. It consists of a man demonstrating the consequences of using illegal narcotics by frying an egg. While it certainly gained traction, the message is admittedly a little confusing. Are our brains turning into delicious breakfasts? Even “Saturday Night Live” parodied the PSA, which is not a great sign if your intentions are to keep things serious. The commercial tried to be even edgier during a later iteration in the 90s, but still seemed to miss the mark (in favor of just hitting a lot of dishes instead). Fine! We’ll listen, just stop wrecking the kitchen!