Winners Don't Use Drugs

Winners Don't Use Drugs is an anti-drug slogan that was included in arcade games imported by the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) into North America for 11 years from 1989 to 2000. The slogan appears on a screen that is shown during a game's attract mode. The messages are credited to FBI Director William S. Sessions, whose name appears alongside the slogan.[1]

Screenshot of the slogan

The slogan was part of a long-term effort by the United States in its war on drugs started by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Part of this campaign was to publicize the message about the harm of drugs to the youth, with the FBI focusing on how to use public messaging to spread this message out widely. Sessions, who became FBI Director in 1987, established the FBI's Drug Awareness Program to get these messages to reach the youth and teenagers.[1]

In 1989, Bob Davenport, the director of the FBI's Office of Public Affairs, was tasked by Sessions to get anti-drug public service announcements towards children. Various ideas were tried but without success. While at a dinner meeting with former FBI agent and Davenport's acquaintance Robert Fay, by then the president of the AAMA, the subject of this PSA came up. Fay's former role in the FBI had been part of a white collar crime unit who had led the investigation into a counterfeit video game ring, which led to Fay's transition to the AAMA. Fay had sway over the various companies in the AAMA due to having helped stop this counterfeit ring, and thus was able to get the AAMA to agree to include the message, once it was decided.[1] Sessions, Davenport and Fay worked through several iterations of the slogan, eventually coming to "Winners Don't Use Drugs" as a short, uplifting message that not only applied to video games but other facets of life. The slogan was accompanied by the FBI's seal, which later helped to identify counterfeit arcade games for lacking the message, the seal, or an incorrect version of it.[1]

Fay secured 20 arcade manufacturers to include the slogan in their games in exchange for these games being featured to the FBI. The slogan was shown in the arcade games' attract mode so that it would be highly visible across arcades.[1] The slogan made its official debut on January 10, 1989, when three major games that included the slogan were shown to the press.[1] A law was also passed that required all imported arcade games to carry the message.[2]

The slogan was used through the 1990s, with Sessions' name replaced by simply "FBI Director" following Sessions' departure from office.[2] By about 2000, the use of the slogan in arcade games waned, as the arcade market was waning, while the intensity of focus on the war on drugs fell.[2]

A similar campaign called Recycle It, Don't Trash It! credited to then-EPA Administrator William K. Reilly was launched several years afterward.[1]

The slogan has been parodied various times, such as in the Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network title Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, saying "Winners Don't Eat Meat"[3] or in Futurama with the version "Winners don't play video games".[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Sean Hutchinson (19 August 2015). "How the F.B.I. Made 'Winners Don't Use Drugs' the Arcade Motto of the '90s". Inverse.
  2. ^ a b c Rath, Robert (August 8, 2013). "Winners Don't Use Drugs: A People's History". The Escapist. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  3. ^ Narcisse, Evan. "Maybe If You Knew the Science… : Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World The Game Review" – via
  4. ^ "Futurama season 6 episode 17 review: Law And Oracle". Den of Geek.