Media and Substance Abuse

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Media and substance abuse

Christensson and Henriksen (2000) conducted a research under thesponsorship of the Office of National Drug Control Policy andMediascope Macro International Inc. to find facts about the media andsubstance use. They assert that despite the fact that there isspeculation that the media, through portrayal of drugs andsubstances, has influenced many adolescents to take up the habit,there is need to carefully examine television content as a crucialstep in determining the influence. According to their findings, therewere negative statements about substance abuse in most televisionprograms. They also found out that more than one third of the contentmentioned or showed drugs and substances had negative effects. Alarge number of episodes showed that illicit drug and substance abusehad some kind of negative consequence, either being jailed, injuredor even death. For this reason, their work disputes the assumptionthat exposure to media that incorporate substance use might becorrelated with initiation of substance use.

Thispaper totally agrees with the findings of Christensen and Henriksen.In the modern day world, media content producers have grown a senseof responsibility regarding the way they portray their characters andhabits, in order not to send out misleading information to theaudience. For instance, one of the biggest television series in therecent past, Breaking Bad, centers its themes on drugs andsubstance abuse. However, it can be argued that the producersnegatively portray the use of drugs and substance abuse, as almostall the characters involved in them, including the main character,end up being jailed, dying or being injured. This fact disputes thearguments by Jiloha (2009) that teenagers blindly follow their rolemodels on television, who abuse substances and makes it lookfashionable and enjoyable. As a matter of fact, this demographic iskeen on the information held by their favorite films, includingsubstance abuse.

Monitoringof media content

It has been established from studies that the media indeed has thepotential and capacity to increase the public health burden fromchronic disease, given the large audience it reaches. However, at thesame time, there is lack of effective, accurate and empiricalinformation about its content. This means that there has to be anentity to moderate and monitor the content being passed by the media.While considering the options, the first thing to deliberate upon isthe level of influence a given monitoring entity has over the media.This means that the state, through the department of information andcommunication, has the capacity to effectively control the content ofthe media or access to them by the youth. This is possible byreviewing productions, controlling excesses and enacting legalclauses for media content monitoring.

Secondly, media houses have the power to control what the youths canview on television. This is because the largest percentage of what isviewed by the youths comes directly from television networks (Kaser &ampOelkers, 2007). Therefore, the media houses have the responsibilityof ensuring that inappropriate content does not reach the youthfulaudience. One of the ways this can be done is reviewing the contentof the material that is forwarded from the producers, censoring it orrejecting it altogether. At the same time, the media houses can putin place policies which promote the production of content which isbeneficial to the audience. These two media content monitoringproposals can be organized and supported through inter-agencycollaboration.


Christenson, P.G., Henriksen, L. &amp Roberts, D.F. (2000).Substance use in popular prime-time television. Retrieved onDecember 4 2014 from:

Jiloha, R.C. (2009). Social and cultural aspects of drug abuse inadolescents. Delhi Psychiatry Journal. 12(2): 167-175.

Kaser, K. &amp Oelkers, D. (2007). Sports and Entertainment.Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.