Creating Cannabis Campaigns in the Youth Mental Health Crisis

With medical and recreational cannabis being legalized in states across the country, research indicates that teens don’t believe there are risks to underage cannabis use. They often don’t understand that cannabis use during adolescence can disrupt physical brain development and impact their mental health. At the same time, we’re in a mental health crisis, and many teens use cannabis to cope with mental health challenges. As health communicators, we can create campaigns that effectively increase teens’ perception of the risk of underage cannabis use.

Creating cannabis messages for teens that are in “SCOPE”

Teen cannabis prevention campaigns in the past shamed teens for using cannabis and relied on judgment to dissuade cannabis use. But evidence shows us those tactics don’t effectively change teens’ behaviors. To be effective, our campaign focus should shift to how cannabis can harm what teens care about instead of simply stating it is “bad.” 

Rescue’s method in creating these empathetic ads incorporates a technique called SCOPE. The messages we build are science-based, credible, and empathetic. They shift teens’ worldviews to help them understand how cannabis use can negatively impact their lives.


What does an empathetic ad look like in practice?

To keep our ads in SCOPE, the first step is to use science to ensure our messages have the highest credibility with teens. Next is to focus on a delivery that is neutral and unbiased. Teens are great at calling out when a message feels extreme and unrealistic, so focusing on the facts and staying objective helps with the receptiveness of the message.

We used the SCOPE method to develop “Brain Science,” an ad that would prevent the initiation of cannabis use for teens. Teens often don’t internalize the risks of cannabis because they don’t see how the risks interfere with what they care about. “Brain Science” provides scientific, fact-based information about how underage cannabis use can impact brain development and even worse mental health challenges.

If you would like to learn more about working with Rescue on your next cannabis communications campaign, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.


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