Video: TV Dramas Match Real US Drug Use

By McCarton Ackerman 04/20/12

Researchers find that TV reflects public opinion on drugs, mostly avoiding stereotypes about users and dealers.

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Looks like you can believe at least some of the things you see on TV, research finds. When it comes to the war on drugs, substance abusers and dealers, shows like CSI: Miami and Law and Order play it close to reality by reflecting public opinion on the war on drugs and avoiding stereotypes about drug users and distributors. Researchers Johanna Blakley and Sheena Nahm at the Norman Lear Center at USC analyzed 49 hours of ten top-rated TV series with storylines on terrorism and drugs in 2010. Their findings showed that drug users were never arrested in storylines about the war on drugs, and that the drug suspects were presented as morally ambiguous or even heroic in some cases. And despite the predominance of minorities in prison for drug-related offenses, 65% of drug suspects in these TV shows were found to be white—accurately reflecting the fact that the vast majority of drug users (and likely offenders) in the US are white. Prescription drug abuse and methamphetamines were also featured three times more often in these shows than marijuana use. The full Primetime War On Drugs and Terror report can be found here. Here's a short video featuring the report's findings.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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