The Museum



Heroin Screws You Up







One of the most iconic public health advertisements from the 1980s, Heroin Screws You Up reverberated with a clear message - Heroin was a death sentence.

At a time when unemployment was steadily rising and society was fragmenting, these advertisements did little to support our understanding of drugs and effective approaches for better managing them. Drugs were seen as everyones' problem but the responsibility of the individual. It was as simple as 'Just Say No'.

Often drug use was portrayed as the enhancement to a party where they could be freely taken or rejected at will. People who lacked the will should know what was coming to them.

The increasingly complex relationship between drug use, the deconstruction of society, community and industry, it's role in blocking out emotional pain were rarely if ever considered.



Purchased by the Museum of Drugs Paraphernalia and Related Antiquities December 2014


Below, television public health advertisements, which were launched in conjunction with the poster. The television advertisements were aired repeatedly throughout the mid 1980s, and helped shape perceptions of a typical drug user.

Whilst the public perception of drug users hardened in the mid 1980s, the onset of HIV and AIDs started to change the tone ever so slightly towards harm reduction, as demonstrated by the advertisement below. This was not an overall sea-change in attitude - much of the rhetoric and imagery is the same, however the UK Government recognised that sharing of needles was a fundamental problem and one the they had a duty to address through needle exchanges.