The Raccoons -- "Drugs Are No Fun"
The Raccoons was almost sarcastically Canadian, featuring a family of raccoons living in a forest by a great lake where everyone was nice. The subplot of every show was how wonderful bike rides through the trees were. A show wouldn't be this coniferous until Stargate SG-1, and at least they remembered to bring guns to make it exciting. It wasn't a fun cartoon, it was a scientific experiment to prove that children would watch anything as long as it was animated.
MOVING COLORS ON A SCREEN. MUST WATCH!
"The Chips Are Down" featured a metaphor more torturous than the Spanish Inquisition studying corporate law. Bert the Raccoon gets "addicted" to the bad guy's brand of horrible, soggy chips because they promise a fabulous bike as a prize. He sells everything he owns and suffers every downside: addiction, fatigue, poor health and a ridiculously messed up fever dream -- teaching every kid watching that you shouldn't do transparently unappealing drugs that provide no tangible benefit. Anyone who understood the analogy didn't need it, or was already on drugs because they were watching The Raccoons.
This cartoon looks like it would take you some dark places with the wrong psychedelics.
Unfortunately, The Raccoons was so relentlessly nice that Bert could snort Ebola and it would have mutated into the cure for cancer and sadness. After agreeing to quit chips, he goes for one last bag, which lands him in a streetfight that ends up destroying his friends' belongings.
And here's where this episode wins the coveted Worst Drug Advice Ever award. Either because the writers had lost track of their own metaphor or simply really liked drugs, the last bag really does contain the ultimate prize that fixes everything. So The Raccoons wasn't just giving bad advice to kids who've never seen drugs -- they were telling kids who had used them that if you stick with it long enough, this whole drug thing's going to pay off.
Keep chasing that dragon, and one day you'll catch him!
At least every other cartoon admitted that drugs provided only short-term gratification that was bad for your health in the long term -- which was a pretty ballsy admission for something designed to hold kids motionless in front of the TV for as long as possible. This episode would easily take the top spot if I suspected that anyone who wasn't researching this article had actually watched it all the way through to the end.
Captain Planet -- "Avoid Free Drugs"
Captain Planet didn't start its run until 1990, but it was either an elaborate homage to the 80s, or it was a shelved 80s cartoon about kids fighting to save an orphanage that got revived when someone went through and replaced every instance of orphanage with "the environment."
Anyone not convinced by this theory need only look at its anti-drug episode for proof. According to the 80s, a drug addict's biggest problem was trying to unload all these drugs he's got on some uncool kid who doesn't want to try them. According to the 80s, drugs promoted such an incredible spirit of sharing, Oscar could have been dealing drugs on Sesame Street. Captain Planet's gritty telling of the drug epidemic totally nails this lesson when narcotics brainwash the entire city of Washington. Russian Planeteer Linka is visiting her family (every single one of whom makes Zangief sound like Bruce Springsteen) and her cousin is on drugs!
And therefore cool and evil!
These drugs are sold by Verminious Skumm, who is an actual human rat because Captain Planet is to subtlety what he is to timeless hairstyles.
"My ecomullet says DRUGS ARE BAD!"
The rest of the episode is people desperately employing trickery, threats and physical violence to force drugs into other people, which is only a couple words off from what actual drug addicts do. Proving that their understanding of the drug trade and character motivation is exactly wrong, the dealer is the only person who doesn't give out even the first hit of his drugs for free, and he was a giant rat bent on enslaving America. He's somewhat successful, because at a certain point, the White House is under attack by zombie-addicts. Which could have been a kickass plot, except the Planeteers spend most of the episode running away from people who are so fantastically unarmed that they can't work door handles.
Cousin Russianovitch using his head.
Linka spends the entire fight refusing to call Captain Planet because she's trying to get Wheeler to take her last pill. We know the PC brigade behind the uber-preacher Captain Planet didn't hang out with junkies, or people who drank more than one glass of wine, but protecting yourself from an addict's free drugs is about as useful a message as teaching us to resist Donald Trump's sex appeal.
Life Tip: Stick to the drug dealers without tails.
BraveStarr -- "Rat Out Everyone Instantly"
Bravestarr was Filmation's awesome follow up to He-Man. It was a sequel in the same way a Swedish masseuse is evolution's sequel to monkeys jacking off. It was like the company decided to apologize for He-Man having 130 episodes but only two punch animations.
To start with, BraveStarr's animal buddy never whined and instead had a kickass mode and a MORE kickass mode. BraveStarr was a sheriff, which meant he ran towards trouble instead of away from it. He and Orko had four times as many powers and didn't save them for once an episode. They used their animal powers more often than you use your mobile phone. That's why 100 percent of all crimes on New Texas were resolved by Bear Fighting ... and BraveStarr was the bear.
You have the right to be MAULED BY A BEAR!
It was also the best anti-drug episode of all-time because they flat out kill a kid, and we'd like to clarify that sentence before it earns us a federal visit. Eighties characters could host a grenade-eating competition against suicide-bombers in an orphanage and not one child would be scratched*. But in BraveStarr, drugs actually had irreversible consequences. And the kid actually enjoyed the drugs. It's almost like drugs are attractive in the short term! There was even understanding for violent maniacs when a huge drugged up thug is protected from vigilante beatings by Bravestarr. They had 80s writers who actually seemed to know about narcotics. I'm assuming that week's episode of Hills Street Blues had Frank Furillo battling crooked mining prospectors who looked like giant cockroaches.
*Technically the Captain Planet episode killed Linka's cousin. But in the early 90s, making a point by killing a Russian was less emphatic than shouting.
In space, everyone knows you're tripping.
Instead, they give advice that's bad because it's too effective. The good kid fetches the cartoon's titular superhero but his friend still dies, making drugs more evil and powerful than zombie curses, atomic warheads and planet-destroying alien invasions combined. It would be like one of those GI Joe PSAs if Joe showed up in time and the kid still died because the good kid procrastinated. The lesson was very clear: If you don't narc on your friends instantly, they will die and it will be your fault. So BraveStarr's aim was to protect a generation from drugs and peer pressure from friends by making sure they ended up with neither.
"Dead, but finally sober."
Check out more from Luke in 7 Kickass Sci-Fi Cancer Cures and The 5 Most Retarded Causes People Are Actually Fighting For.