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See The Effects of Drug Use Unfold Before Your…Er…What Was I Saying?

The effects of drug use may be gradual but for teens who fall prey to the addictive nature of illicit substances, the long-term impact can be profound. The Partnership at Drugfree.org reveals in a clever time-lapse PSA both the physical and intellectual damage that comes from adolescent drug use.


In “Stop the Damage,” a fresh-faced kid begins by talking about how the prefrontal cortex–that part of the brain that controls cognitive function, such as memory, thinking, and learning–is still maturing in an adolescent brain. Taking drugs at that time alters key motivational circuits, forever changing the adult that kid was to become. Over the course of 30 seconds, the boy evolves before your eyes into a distracted, older looking, and unfocused young man.

Created by agency DDB and production company The Colony, the boy’s transition from clean-cut to disheveled is smooth and eerie. The effect was created by first prerecording the audio so the actor could lip-sync his lines while undergoing his visual transformation. Director David Gaddie then shot many different passes of the same actor with altered looks. He was first shot with longer hair and age effects from makeup designer Judy Chin (of Black Swan fame). His hair was cut back at the end of the shoot to reveal the younger-looking, pre-drug teen. Transitions were smoothed in postproduction by The Colony’s VFX studio Afterparty.


While the optical illusion in “Stop the Damage” is impressive, the problem with such abstinence messages is that kids taking drugs don’t really care about or are disconnected from the future impact of their actions. This ad serves to provide adults a stark visual in the hopes that they’ll notice the signs of substance abuse before it’s too late.

See the making-of video below:

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