Friday, July 21, 2006

US Media Prone to Meth Abuse Hysteria

This article from "Stats at George Mason University", published on 17 July 2006 and written by Maia Szalavitz highlights the failure of USA journalists to assess press releases objectively and to ensure their reporting is not manipulated by the political ends of lobbyists. Thus despite the fact that law enforcement officers are currently seeking extra funding for methamphetamine anti-drug task forces, journalists have uncritically accepted these officers' assessment of the problem of methamphetamine as the "number 1 drug problem". However these officers' assessment bears no correlation to drug treatment surveys or a recently released survey by the Sentencing Project which revealed that “methamphetamine is among the least commonly used drugs”.

This article is interesting in highlighting the supine malleability of the US media by lobbying organisations and the resultant corruption of the "free" press. At least there was one ray of sunshine in her report since she noted that the San Jose Mercury News did make use of its critical faculties to publish the political lobbyist nature of the officers' press release; "While conducted scientifically, the survey is also a political document intended to rally support for additional federal spending. In some cases, the statistics are skewed to make a point". Unfortunately I'm guessing that the circulation of the San Jose Mercury News doesn't enjoy the opinion-shaping influence of, say, the New York Times.


Mark Pawelek said...

The US media are so uncritical and ill-informed about drugs it's a disgrace that they call themselves professionals. For example: Meth Madness at Newsweek - This is your magazine on drugs. Methamphetamine (aka meth), is perhaps the drug around which most misinformation revolves. The press take their "information" from the authorities and the authorities tell lies.

US law enforcement have been expecting a meth epidemic for 18 years now, since 1988, when meth replaced cocaine as the drug of choice in Hawaii.[ref. 1].

Where did the anticipated meth epidemic go? Maybe there was never going to be one?, did anyone stop to consider that possibility? Certainly not US law enforcement who depend on creating media panics over drugs as their bread and butter for more funding. Perhaps the reason was because the drug lasts too long (24 hours) and episodes of acute paranoia can last several hours, days or even weeks?[ref. 1] Simple really - people don't like drugs which lead to extremely unpleasant experiences. The overall negative experience of meth was confirmed in 1993 when 'cisco users were interviewed about their drug habits.[ref. 2]. However, meth's had a bad name among druggies since the 1960s when the motto "speed kills" was coined from off the streets. That was hyperbole with a molecule of truth in it; a passing acquaintance with any methamphetamine abuser is enough to put most drug users off meth for life.


1) Dr. Jon Jackson, [letter] New Engl. J. Med., 1989, 321, 907
2) "Whatever happened to ice? The latest drug scare," J. Drug Issues, 1993, 23, 597-613.

Anonymous said...

The distortion of reality by the media really is frighteningly Orwellian. It is hard to educate people in the facts when they are reading such misinformation. Thank goodness for the internet where fact-based information can be found.

Anonymous said...

Methamphetamine abuse is a problem, and is damaging. But as usual saying things like 'its impossible to get off meth' or 'its ten times more powerful than crack' dont help.

Soberly looking at the reasons why people are using this powerful stimulant would be a much better idea.