10 most unrealistic anti-drug PSAs of the ’80s and ’90s

One of the things about growing up in the ’80s and ’90s is that I really feel like I was way the hell over-prepared for random strangers wanting to give me free drugs all the time. I was certainly over-prepared for “peer pressure.” I kept expecting at least someone to be all “Take these free drugs or we’re not friends anymore!” and that totally never happened. Here are some more things that also never happened!

1. I’m not a chicken, you’re a turkey!

Well, having been kind of a nerd myself, I can tell you that not a day went by in middle school without the class bully demanding that I take some free, pre-rolled joints that he wanted to give me. Except not. Of course, the real problem with this ad was obviously the fact that “I’m not a chicken, you’re a turkey!” is like the least clever comeback line ever. What does that even mean? Why would you teach children that this is a clever thing to say?

2. Helen Hunt in “Desperate Lives”

This after-school special has gone down in history as one of the most (unintentionally) hilarious examples of anti-drug propaganda ever. Yet, what I have the biggest problem with is the fact that Helen Hunt’s boyfriend was making PCP in the school’s chem lab like some teenage Walter White. Not only is that a little advanced for a high schooler, but also I just Googled and found out that it takes about 16-18 hours to make and involves cyanide, which I am pretty sure they don’t have in a high school chem lab.

PS- Holy crap, the teacher in this is the chick who played Christina Crawford in Mommy Dearest!

3. Punky Brewster and The Chiclets

Long story short, a cool sixth grade girl gang decides that Punky Brewster’s tree house would be a great place to have all of their official meetings, so they invite Punky and Cheri to join. However, the initiation rites involve taking a random drug out of the 8,000 varieties of drugs this broad keeps in her cigarette pack. Most of said drugs look like Good ‘n’ Plenty’s. Then Punky and Cheri “just say no” (Cheri wavers because she is weaksauce), and then all the other girls in the gang ditch the leader because Punky and Cheri are cooler and they don’t want to do drugs anyway. AND THEN THE CITY THROWS HER A PARADE. Basically!

Where is this sixth grader getting like, ALL OF THE DRUGS? Like, do even hardcore junkies walk around with a cigarette pack of pot, cocaine, quaaludes, barbituates and Good’n’Plentys? I feel like that doesn’t happen.

4. Diff’rent Strokes- The Reporter

Really, barbituates in the eighth grade. Barbituates? I am, like, 30 and have not really heard of anyone taking barbituates, ever, except in, like, “Valley of The Dolls.” I’ve known some hardcore drug addicts in my time, and freaking “barbituates” have never come up in conversation. It was hard enough to get pot in eighth grade! I call shenannigans*.

OH, and of course when Arnold tells his principal about this, the principal doesn’t believe him, so he tells the newspaper and the newspaper does a story on him and then Nancy Reagan shows up like the patron saint of eighth graders not taking barbituates.

*Granted, I was living in a small town in Massachusetts in eighth grade and they were living in New York City and were perhaps more sophisticated in their drug use?

5. “Jem’s” Weird Drug Episode With The Flying Lunchbox

So, one of the Starlight Girls– the chicks who live in Jem’s orphanage that she operates in her off-time when she is not being a rock star or running a record label– is sitting alone in the park in a world of self pity. Naturally, a total stranger comes up and gives her free drugs for no apparent reason. Then, in a moment of even more self pity, she gives in and takes the pill. But most importantly:

I CANNOT EVEN FIGURE OUT WHAT DRUG THIS WOULD BE. It looks like an advil! What pill form drug can you even take that would make you hallucinate so vividly in under 10 seconds? Is that even possible? I think it is not.


So, I was originally going to include the OTHER “Saved By The Bell” drug episode (“No Hope With Dope!”) where that celebrity dude shows up to film an anti-drug PSA with them, and then tries to get with Kelly and give her drugs at a party? Because that was pretty weird too. But then I was like, if I don’t mention the “I’M SO EXCITED!” episode, people will be sad.

But seriously. They were caffeine pills. How much actual coke would you have to do to freak out like that? Probably a lot! Given how much coffee I drink, I could probably swish down a bottle of caffeine pills with Jolt and still not freak out like that. Sigh.

7. “Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue”

Ok, so this kid is smoking pot and stealing from his sister’s piggy bank to pay for it. Because we all know that if someone were to steal from an eight-year-old’s piggy bank, it would be because they were just so very addicted to marijuana and messed up from it that they would not be able to control themselves. Not because they’re a weird jerk. And then we are expected to believe that the real problem is that this kid is smoking pot, and not that he and his sister are freaking hallucinating that some Saturday Morning cartoon characters have come to rescue them.

8. A PSA from the weird fugazi “Ghostbusters” cartoon!

YES. This is obviously how you deal with drug dealers. By having your friend that is a talking ape throw them into a garbage can. Violence solves everything, kids!

9. “Captain Planet” PSA

If there is one thing we all know about people who are really into saving the environment, it is that they really hate smoking pot.

10. “G.I. Joe” and Spark

At least “G.I. Joe” admits it’s drug is fake? But yeah, a drug lord with the most hilarious voice ever tries to start a drug factory (totally a thing that exists) and plans to get everyone hooked on his drug called “Spark.” DRUGS ARE SO BAD, YOU GUYS, that the Joes and Cobra must unite to stop them.

ADDENDUM: I have been trying for years to find this one video we watched in health class where this dude was all ragey on steroids, and there was an all Madonna soundtrack? That is all I remember about it, other than that it was so hilarious that I was crying through half of it. If you have any idea what I’m even talking about and remember the title, I will totally love you forever.