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Media has significant role in drug deaths

Awesome story on how the media can contribute to epidemics of drug abuse and death!

Opioid-related news media reports and poisoning mortality, 1999 – 2005, United States.

Researchers from four prestigious universities have reported a very high level of correlation
between opiod drug deaths and news reporting of opiod abuse or misuse. There were 24,272 articles and 30,916 deaths involving prescription opioids during the seven-year study period. The study was published November 18, 2009 at   http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007758

The study makes no claim that media caused these deaths but does cite a repetitive pattern that covers more than fifty years.

This chart and explanation excerpted from the paper “Breaking the News or Fueling the
Epidemic? Temporal Association between News Media Report Volume and Opioid-Related
Mortality” explains the results.

“Monthly print news media volume mentioning short-acting prescription opioid substances closely tracked closely with poisoning mortality due to those medications. Print news media articles consistently preceded mortality by a few months. Month and year of publication and headlines were extracted for any article whose body text contained the generic or branded name of short-acting opioid substances available for outpatient use in the United States during the study period: buprenorphine, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, propoxyphene, oxycodone, and tramadol. Morphine was excluded because a preliminary review indicated articles mentioning morphine almost exclusively described pain management (without abuse) or arts reviews. Poisoning deaths were identified using a combination of International Classification of Disease 10th Edition (ICD-10) codes, see text, to identify deaths involving short-acting opioid substances. Data on methadone are not
presented due to difficulties in distinguishing deaths from its two indications (addiction, pain)
using ICD-10 codes, however inclusion of methadone did not significantly alter results (data not shown). Time series were smoothed using 5-month moving averages.”

Citation: Dasgupta N, Mandl KD, Brownstein JS (2009) Breaking the News or Fueling the
Epidemic? Temporal Association between News Media Report Volume and Opioid-Related
Mortality. PLoS ONE 4(11): e7758. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007758

Editor: Wayne D. Hall, University of Queensland, Australia

Nabarun Dasgupta1, Kenneth D. Mandl2,3,4, John S. Brownstein2,3,4*

1 Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Unites States of America, 2 Children’s Hospital
Informatics Program at HarvardûMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Division of Health
Sciences and Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, 3 Division of
Emergency Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of
America, 4 Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston,
Massachusetts, United States of America

Paul Goode was a narcotics investigator in Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Goode also was involved in UNDO and the DEA. Officer Goode’s duties included giving lectures about the harm drugs do to schools, churches, and other groups. Officer Goode claims he regrets these lectures because he feels the lectures created much more interest in experimentation with drugs than creating a fear of drugs. Mr. Goode is a personal friend and is now retired. The personal experience of a police officer over more than twenty years while considered anecdotal also supports the research conclusions.

Many teachers and psychologists presently write that the most influential people in teenagers lives are their friends. This fact belies the contention of media influence.

In the “War on Drugs” as with every other human endeavor, we appear to always do the wrong thing first. Then we clean up our mess.

The researchers conclude that more prudence should be exercised by the media in reporting “drug articles”. They even suggest some precedent for media control. This would be a violation of “Freedom of the Press”. A self regulation by the media is also suggested but that is concluded to be less than possible as news writers and news readers are more and more sensationalists.

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