Portrayal of Drugs and Drug Use by the Mass Media

Illegal drugs have detrimental effects on behavior of the user. But why do people still engage in these substances  The feeling of euphoria only takes place while the drugs are in the users brain once it leaves the brain the mind perceives almost everything as negative. Another issue with the altered state of perception produced by drugs is people hurting themselves or others while under the influence of drugs. Thus, many young people begin to use drugs for two main reasons to experiment with the pleasurable effects of drugs and to try on antisocial adults roles and behaviors.

    Drugs and drug use are some of the prevalent crimes in the modern society. Drugs are highly pervasive especially among or youths and students who fall as victims of this dangerous crimes. Drug abuse and addiction are a burden in the society, extending their effects in both social and economic fields. Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United Statesincluding health- and crime-related costs as well as losses in productivityexceed half a trillion dollars annually. This includes approximately 181 billion for illicit drugs, 168 billion for tobacco, and 185 billion for alcohol. HYPERLINK httpwww.drugabuse.govinfofactsunderstand.html l Anchor-49575 Staggering as these numbers are, however, they do not fully describe the breadth of deleterious public healthand safetyimplications, which include family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, child abuse, and other crimes. (The National Institute on Drug Abuse 2009 n.p.).

    The mass media play a very important role in the society and perform a variety of functions. Mass media plays a necessary role in informing the public of the relevant issues and events that may affect human activities. Everyday, the media bombards us with significant current events and other pieces of information deemed as significant to the public. Because of the information that media provides, it shapes our values, beliefs, and perception. Mass media has the ability to proliferate vital information and advocate change to the people of the society. Mass media informs us about the different aspects of drugs and drug use in the society. The mass media often broadcast or print ads pertaining to drugs and drug use. However, the messages sent by media about illegal substances are often mixed and confused messages thus, confusing the public on the image of these illegal substances.

Drug Abuse and Addiction
    Drug abuse and addiction are two of the problems related to drug use. Many people do not understand why and how some people get addicted to drugs and how drugs are capable of altering the peoples thinking to commit to a habitual drug abuse. Drug use is not solely a social dilemma. People often mistakenly believe that drug users can stop in their addiction if they have the will power to alter their behaviour. People often underestimate the complexity of drug addiction. A chronic psychological disorder affects the brain and alters the persons behaviour (The National Institute on Drug Abuse 2009).

    There is a wide array of factors that influence a person to use drugs. However, there is no single factor that determines whether a person will be addicted or not to drugs. The social environment plays a large role in influencing the person to be addicted. The environment is composed of various different influences including family and friends to the socio-economic factors and quality of life. Some of the other factors which include peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse as well as parental guidance all influence the persons involvement to drug abuse and addiction (The National Institute on Drug Abuse 2009).

    Other risk factors that influence the person to be addicted include biology, age and stages of development. In biology, genes and ethnicity may influence the onset of drug addiction. Moreover, the presence of mental disorders and incapacities influence the persons vulnerability to drug abuse. The other factors tend to interact with the stages of development in a persons life and largely affect the persons vulnerability. Greater challenge is faced by the adolescents pertaining to drug use. The earlier the drug use begins will lead to a more chronic abuse. And because the adolescents brain is still in progress in aspects of decision-making and judgement, they are more at risk of trying and taking drugs (The National Institute on Drug Abuse 2009).

There is a variety of reasons why people are hooked or addicted to drugs. The first reason is the satisfying, heavenly effect of drugs giving its users. The use of drugs cannot itself be viewed as a psychological or sociological disorder. Otherwise, countless people would be considered abnormal for taking a sedative to get to sleep when upset. The use of substances that affect the central nervous system is considered abnormal when it becomes so frequent and heavy that users can no longer function normally, whether in the family, at school, or at work (Beman 1995). Moreover, such people continue to seek drugs despite damage to their health and the threat to life itself. An indication that drug use is departing from normal is the development of psychological dependence. When this happens, users no longer view the substance as an incidental feature of life or as a way to promote pleasure and well-being.

There are many theories as to why some people are hooked on drugs. According to one theory, it all depends on the view of they have of themselves. After experimenting with drugs, some people develop a belief that they are unable to cope without them. Continued use sets up a vicious cycle. Another theory is that people who slip across the line from occasional experimentation with drugs to abuse have difficulty handling their anxieties about achievement. Such individuals turn to drugs in the first place to find temporary relief they know the drug will bring. The process continues to be spiral until the goal is no longer only freedom from tension but a state of uninterrupted contentment (Beman 1995).

The second reason of drug addiction is in the ways drug addicts resemble people with antisocial personalities, which make up most of the criminals psyche. They generally have trouble conforming to societys rules, and they live without attachments to work, family, or religion. It is sometimes hard to tell whether the complications of addiction, such as crime, are the result of drugs or the sources of psychological stress leading to drug use in the first place. Victims are usually beset by extremely difficult psychological and social problems. They are likely to be financially strapped not only because the habit is so expensive, but also because it interferes with productive work. The young victims, most especially, become juvenile delinquents and tend to make little progress in school, and they may be in deep trouble with the law (Volkow 2009).

    Simply put, illegal drug addiction creates problems, which effect society in several ways. A study undertaken by the National Institute of Justice found that from one-half to three-fourths of the men arrested for serious in twelve major American cities tested positive for recent drug use. Moreover, a study of a good number of hard-core juvenile crack and cocaine users in Miami revealed that the adolescents confessed to an average of approximately 880 crimes each in the previous year. Such findings have indeed heightened interest among criminal justice officials, criminologists, and sociologists concerning the complex relationship between drugs and crime.

    One of the ways to resolve the problem is to treat the addicts by hunting them down, take them out of the society for quarantine and to forcedly undergo cure and treatment until they are like normal citizens once again. The kind of treatment referred here is long term, forcible control of the addicts behaviour and freedom (Gossop 2007).

Mass Media and Drug Use in the Society
    In the past, womens magazines do not cover or write articles about drugs and drug use as it seems inappropriate for the readers. However, times have changed. Drug use has been part of the life of a modern woman and many well believe tales of pop stars and artists involve in drugs are covered by various publications (Henderson 2000). However, drugs is not a question of gender and sex but it is a social problem encompassing every individual in the society. One of the factors that highly influence the drug use in the society is the prevalence of ads and messages in the different types of media. The mass media is a powerful tool in influencing the minds of people.

    Drugs and the Media
    The mass media reports a variety of news and information about the status of drugs and drug use in the society. Drugs and drug use are portrayed in the media. One of the recent anti-drug ads in mass media is the world-renowned skier, Chad Fleischer. The skier expressed that skiing is his anti-drug. This is only a form of advocating keeping adolescents off drugs. These types of ad campaigns convey the message that drugs are not cool. A lot of efforts are put in the ads against the use of illegal substances. However, the opposite reflected in the conducted surveys pertaining to the portrayal of the different forms of mass media to drugs and drug use. In a recent survey conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America shows that 42 percent of teens said that rap or rock music makes drugs seem a positive substance and 40 percent of teens said that television programs portray drugs as a good substance (Pozniak 2009). In UK, the clubs and the bands performing in it play an immense role in the increase in number of adolescent drug users. Drug use spread from the bands to fans. More clubs are built that support this kind of addiction in order to attract more customers. The clubs offer amphetamines to their clients (Shapiro 2000).

    However, anti-drug advocates say that the youth are getting mixed messages about drugs and other illegal substances from the media. Many shows and songs tend to transmit the message that drugs are OK. The youth and adolescents are the high consumers of the pop culture and mass media. Thus, it makes the parents worried that their children is highly exposed to the ads and messages containing mixed messages about drugs and drug use (Pozniak 2009). During the 1950s and 1960s, the popularity and widespread influence of rock n roll music led to the prevalence of promiscuity and antisocial behaviour. This issue of drugs and music led to the prosecution of many pop stars who were perceived as having a highly corrupting influence to the youth (Wood 1997).

    In Britain, ads and prevention campaigns against the prevalence of drugs and other illegal substances often backfired by stimulating curiosity and interest in the drug and drug use and by provoking the target group into developing counter arguments against the messages transcend by the ads. Similar situations happen in the United States, wherein prevention campaigns tend to have boomerang effects (Power 1989). Because of the media-centricity of the messages in prevention campaigns, the role of the audienceis often left unexamined. The audience has the ability to filter, interpret, deconstruct and even reconstruct messages that can be different on the inherent intentions of the perpetrators of the media campaigns (Murji 1998).

    Misreporting of Drug-Related Stories
    The media seem to comprehensively misrepresent drugs, their effects, drug use and the whole nature of the drug market and the enforcement response to it. There are a lot of dangers in misreporting, especially when it comes to the topic of drugs and drug use in the society. The mass media does not reduce or prevent the problems in drugs and media reports promote the behaviour they claim to be preventing. The promotion of the battle against drugs in the country has only exacerbated the problem. The detailed reports about drugs, especially where and how it was obtained, act as free advertising for the drug market and drug dealers (The Media and Its Coverage of Illicit Drug Issues). Thus, increase the popularity of drugs and their sales and transactions. Moreover, detailed media reporting of where and how to obtain has implications on public health and safety. Drug overdose cases tend to increase as the media give out information on where people can get drugs. Thus, many people know where they can go to purchase drugs to supply their vice.

    The mass media tend to exaggerate the stories about drugs and drug use in the society as a way of discouraging people from trying drugs. As a matter of fact, there are evidences that suggest that hyperbolic stories about drugs and drug use render opposite results. For example, currently, the limelight of the media focus on ecstasy and on its effects to drug users, instead of preventing drug use, people only switch their drug choice to another type of drug which can be more harmful to health. Moreover, this type of stories may solicit inappropriate reactions from parents that may drive away drug users to seek help and continue to be under the influence of drugs (DrugScope 2009).

    Flawed reporting about drugs and drug use may also have an effect on the peoples trust to the media. People tend to compare the reported news to their actual experiences. If the news does not coincide with the peoples experiences, they will disregard the information and they will not trust all the information that will be given to them. For example, the media highly exaggerated the reports concerning deaths related to ecstasy, people who are have tried ecstasy and knew that the reported news are exaggerated will no longer believe on the news and on the long term effects of ecstasy (DrugScope 2009).

    Lastly, misreporting of drugs and drug use in the society includes emphasizing on one or two aspects of drug use. Because of this, the media does not really tackle the real dangers of drugs and drug use. The dangers of drugs do not only lie on the negative effects of the drugs but also on the onset of addiction and the influences that drives people to try and get hooked on drugs. In the end, misreporting on drugs may not be helping the society and its campaign against drug addiction. It may add up to the problem of encouraging people to try and to use drugs. In contrary, honest and accurate reporting may have positive effects on the issue.

    Drug abuse and addiction are some of the serious problems in the present society pertaining to drug use. The effects and implications of this chronic disease largely affect the personal and occupational lives of the users. People are well aware of the dangers of drugs through the help of the mass media. Mass media played a very large and important role in informing the public about the different dangers and detrimental effects of the variety of drugs. Moreover, mass media has become a tool that discourages people or non-users from trying and using drugs due to its information campaign against drug use. However, there are emerging problems pertaining to the reporting of mass media when it comes to drugs and drug use in the society. The mass media tend to render negative or opposite effects of what they claim to be preventing people from trying and using drugs. Mass media are overwhelmed of their inherent role to inform the public. Mass media is believed to worsen the problem about drugs. Mass media gives an instant publicity to drug dealers and places where people can purchase drugs, thus, increasing the illegal drug transactions in a particular area. People also tend to mistrust the mass media when it reports news stories unparallel to real human experiences. Moreover, the mass media sometimes tend to exaggerate the news stories about drugs and drug use. These hyperbolic stories tend to mislead the viewers or readers about the real score about drugs. Moreover, there is an existing conflict or battle in the entertainment media. Some form of mass media promotes the use of drugs and portrays a positive image of illegal substances. There is an urgent need to critically reflect on how the mass media portray drugs and drug use and bridge the lapses and misreporting of the mass media in order to render positive results on the goals and objectives against drug use.


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