Media Influence on Addiction

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  • Media Influence on Addictions
    • Gunakesera et al (2005)
      • analysed the portrayal of drug use in the most popular movies of the last 20 years. They recorded drug use and any consequences discussed or depicted.
      • 8% of movies showed cannabis use and 7% shows other non-injected drugs. This was less common than alcohol consumption (32%) and tobacco use (68%) but tended to portray their use as positively and without negative consequences.
      • The researchers concluded that drug use, although infrequent, tended to be portrayed positively.
    • Advertising effect
      • The BPS called for a ban on the advertisement of all tobacco products. This call was backed up by the governments own research which suggested a link between sales and advertising. In countries that have banned advertising there has been a significant drop in tobacco consumption.
      • In 2008, a television and internet advertising campaign to warn teenagers about the dangers of cocaine use. The advert features a fictional dog called Pablo who is used by drug dealers to carry cocaine. The dog seeks out cocaine users to find out what happens to them after taking the drug. He watches a young woman have a heart attack after taking cocaine. Evidence about the effectiveness of such campaigns is far from conclusive.
    • Evaluation
      • Sargent (2009) tested whether adolescents' exposure to smoking in the movies influenced their initiation into smoking. They surveyed a total of 4384 11-15 year olds. They found that in those who had not smoked when they were fist surveyed, exposure to movie smoking over the next year was a strong predictor of whether they had begun to smoke when re-surveyed the following year.
      • Contrary to the claim that movies portray drug use in a positive and glamorous way, Boyd (2008) argues that movies do frequently represent negative consequences of alcohol and drug dependance.
      • Betwen 1998 and 2004, the US invested $1 billion into anti-drug campaigns.The goals were to educate and enable youths to reject drugs and convince occasional users to stop. Hornik et al (2008) claims this did not reach its goals, it also led to delayed unfavourable effects concerning the use of marijuana.
        • Hornik suggests this campaign failed to work because the idea was not particularly novel and also it had an implicit message that drug use is common.
      • Most of the evidence about media effects on addictive behaviour is correlational. Depictions of drug and alcohol use in the media are linked to addictive behaviour. It does not conclude that exposure through the media causes addiction.
    • Research has suggested that the mass media can potentially influence behaviours. Furthermore, research has shown that the more likable the actor or actress who smokes is, the more vulnerable their fans are.


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