Do Media Depictions of Drug Use Have an Impact on Real-world Drug Use?

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Do Media Depictions of Drug Use Have an Impact on Real-world Drug Use?

Culture is both shaped and shaping

One of the criticisms associated with a lot of media that is blamed for being too violent or too sexual is associated with the way it portrays drug use. When we talk about drug use, we might consider alcohol, illicit drugs, and tobacco, which are often portrayed in a variety of contexts, and sometimes, portrayed in more positive, enticing, or appealing ways than the real-life consequences of drugs. Many people have protested these media depictions, but do they have an impact? Let’s take a look at some arguments for and against this and whether media depictions might influence real-life addiction.

 

For the impact of media:

  • Drugs are often portrayed as cool or more harmless than they truly are

Media depictions of drug use are often associated with “fun” and enjoyment. Alcohol, for example, might be shown as something that enables the characters to have fun or lose their inhibitions. Even if it has negative consequences, it might lead the characters into an adventure. Smoking is often a trait given to cool or tough characters. The use of illicit drugs is usually portrayed differently, but something like marijuana is often used for comedic effect or associated with positive characters. Drugs might be portrayed in positive ways and the negative consequences are not shown or downplayed. This can create association for the drugs that are more positive.

 

  • Even negative depictions of drug use can be appealing

However, to counter the above depictions, there have also been many negative portrayals of drugs or the characteristic of drug use is given to villains or antagonists. However, this doesn’t mean that the positive associations are not there. Villains or negative characters can also be perceived as cool or appealing, especially if they have desirable things, like status or money. For example, Scarface from the movie of the same name is often taken to be a cool character despite his flaws and, ultimately, his fate.

 

  • Media impacts real life

It is clear that media has an impact on real life. The portrayals of different things and behaviors in the media does impact what people choose to do. For example, after the release of the 101 dalmatians, more people wanted to have dalmatians as pets. After the release of media reports on publicized suicides, there is a spike in suicide rates. So, it cannot be said that media depictions are harmless because they might impact real-life behaviors. This could happen because they expose individuals to the idea of drug use, because they normalize the idea of using a drug (especially alcohol), and because they might show this behavior as desirable or associated with desirable traits.

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Against the impact of media:

  • The impact is not absolute

Still, the impact of media depictions is not associated with brainwashing. It impacts some people more than others and it might have no effect on individuals at all. The impact of media might be greater for people who are more vulnerable to the influence in general and especially on those who are younger or lack critical thinking. For example, children could be more vulnerable to the ideas in the media than adults. So, the impact of media is not universal.

 

  • The impact may depend on the portrayal

As mentioned, many portrayals make drugs out to be more fun and enjoyable while not focusing as much on the consequences.  Some portrayals may go in the opposite direction and portray drugs as pure evil, which could have the opposite effects. Many PSAs that take this approach are frequently mocked online for their inaccuracy. However, more nuanced and realistic portrayals can be deterrents from drug use. For example, something that shows effectively the consequences of drug abuse and avoids glamorizing it can have a positive impact on real-life substance abuse.

 

  • Drugs are a part of life

Ultimately, media is something that reflects the human experience, and drugs are a part of that experience. Banning depictions of drug use completely is unlikely to be effective and might not have the desired effect. Instead, it would be important to encouraged varied, nuanced, and accurate depictions of drugs, being especially careful in relation to the media aimed at younger audiences.

 

So, what about drug depictions and addiction? For some people, media might have encouraged their addiction, so it would be best to avoid media portrayals that are too graphic, positive, or appealing, especially for people struggling with rehabilitation. If you or a loved one needs help and would like to explore next steps in the recovery process, please call one of our professionals at Valley Spring Recovery Services. To learn more general information about sober houses or about Valley Spring’s sober living NYC see the hyperlinks. Feel free to read our previous blog about the pros and cons of AA.

 

 

The  Pros and Cons of Alcoholics Anonymous

Take what works and leave the rest

Alcoholics Anonymous and its sister programs are among the most recommended services for addiction support across the country and in many other regions of the world. The program has a lot going for it, and many believe that this is a strong service with many benefits for recovering from substance abuse problems. However, there have also been some criticisms leveled against the program, and it has been suggested that it might not be for everyone. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Alcoholics Anonymous and consider who might benefit from this program and who might not.

Pros:

  • It’s easily accessible

One of the biggest advantages of AA is that it is easily accessible. First, it is available in a lo of different countries  across the world and in many cities and small towns as well. This means that there are likely chapters of the organization available for someone looking for support. If there are no meetings near the person, it is possible to organize them. Secondly, AA is for everyone and people are not required to pay to access the services, even if donations are encouraged. This might make it a more affordable option for those who might struggle financially.

 

  • It creates a support network

AA’s main draw is that it helps create a support network between people who face similar challenges. They encounter others struggling with similar things and can find understanding and informed advice. Additionally, the AA system contributes to forming strong bonds between the attendants and encourages them to take responsibility for each other through the sponsorship system. Having social support can be highly beneficial, especially in cases where the person with addiction has become isolated from others or has been rejected by their other contacts. In some situations, the person might feel that others in their don’t understand them as well.

 

  • It offers structure

AA has a lot of structure. It has the 12-steps system, structured meetings, and other features that help make the person’s life more structured. This creates an additional support for those struggling with substance abuse and helps them rely on this structure to make their lives more organized as well. It also has a clear set of guidelines and protocols that are followed in different groups, so the person might move and still benefit from the structure they are accustomed to.

 

However, the AA has also been criticized for some aspects. It’s worth noting that many people find that AA is helpful even if the system is not entirely aligned with their ideas, however, for some the cons may be more significant.

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Cons:

  • It has religious undertones

AA was born as a Christian organization and the echoes of this origin can still be felt today. For instance, one very cited aspect is the  need to acknowledge a higher power, which is a part of the proposed steps. While the steps do not specify the higher power, this focus on the spiritual might be a turn-off for people with atheistic religious beliefs or those whose beliefs conflict with the ideas.

 

  • It might create a dependence on the system

Something that has been criticized in relation to AA is that it might foster a dependence on the system instead of on the substance. Some people become excessively involved in AA and it becomes the center of their support system to the expense of other aspects of their lives and development. AA promotes a view of addiction as something that is never overcome fully. While this view might be important to promote responsibility and accountability, some have argued that it also limites the options of the people who are part of the group and makes them dependent on AA throughout their lives.

 

  • It can vary by group

AA is a group ran by the people within it, so its effectiveness and support can vary significantly depending on where it is and how it is handled. For example, there are groups with those who attend AA by court order and are not significantly invested in being where, which might hurt the overall atmosphere if not properly addressed. Some AA meetings also are used unethically by people looking to sell drugs or for vulnerable people to hook up with. In many groups, this is effectively addressed but not always.

 

Overall, AA has helped a lot of people but, as anything, it has its pros and cons. For some, the cons may be more significant but it’s worth giving it a shot anyway. If you need help getting plugged into support groups or may be thinking about the idea of a sober house, call Valley Spring to find out exactly how they can help you get sorted with different recovery services and sober living in nyc.

 

Feel free to read our previous blog about if alcohol should be banned