Essay on Media Portrayal of Drugs

Published: 2021-08-02
1025 words
4 pages
9 min to read
Harvey Mudd College
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The media has portrayed drug use and its sale differently, and they are all based on the type of culture that is being promoted. For instance, when we look at the American crime drama Narcos, that was produced by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro, we see the bigger picture that lies behind the drug sale and uses in United States (Gibson, 2016). The film is starred by Wagner Moura, who plays as Pablo Escobar, the antagonist in the film, a drug load with lots of connections other drug lords, the governments and other opposing entities. In the film, we are shown how Pablo Escobar rises from just having a small cocaine factory, to owning large chains and controlling a larger share of cocaine business in Colombia. US government sends Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) to work together with Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) in Colombia under Drug Enforcement Administration to bring down Pablo Escobar (Gibson, 2016). The film portrays different tactics that Escobar employs to survive in the drug business.

The film glorifies and also repudiates sale of drugs. The big fortune that Escobar accumulates portrays the fact that drug business can make one rich overnight. Also, the film portrays the fact that governments also play a role in promoting drug sales because some of the people who work with the government have a share in the illicit business. This shown by the fact that Escobar escapes being the attempts of being captured many times, and also the fact that his business blooms despite it being illegal. The film is based in Colombia, and Pablo Escobar is a portrayed as a Colombian (Gibson, 2016). This insinuates that drug business is highly associated with Latinos and that the rich white people are major consumers of drugs, such as cocaine. These portrayals have had a significant impact on the American society, because a majority of people in the United States link drug sale with the Latinos, hence causing them to be wrongly accused or arrested during the fight against drug sale and use (Gibson, 2016).

Research Article

A study was conducted by Denniston et al., (2011) to identify associations between electronic media use and involvement in violence, alcohol and drug use among United States high school students. The researchers analyzed data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey that had been conducted in 2007. Chi-square test was performed to identify associations between the exposure and the outcome variables and logical regression was performed to obtain crude odds ratios for the exposure variables. The results indicated that about 35.4% of the student watched TV and 24.9% played video games or used computers. The risk behaviors that included physical fights and initiation of alcohol use before attaining 13 years was associated with frequent TV or computer and video game use even after factors such as race, sex and grade had been controlled. The research concluded that there was the need to research more to gain a better understanding of the mechanism of electronic media exposure and health-risk behaviors that were associated with it.

The article presents good evidence that there is an association between media portrayal of drug use and use of alcohol tobacco, and other drugs by the youth in the United States. It is evident that a majority of youth in the united states are exposed to media devices such as television, computers, portable devices such as iPads, phones among other devices. The music videos that are produced by celebrities promote alcohol, tobacco use among other drugs. These videos are highly accessible to the user, through media channels such as YouTube. Netflix has allowed people to get unlimited access to movies, and a majority of them are based on crime and drug business for instance Ice, Power, Gotham, just but to name a few. These films are watched by a majority of young people, and it is highly likely that it influences their behavior.

A majority of research studies have linked frequent media among the youth to high-risk behaviors such as earlier sexual activity, drug use, and violence. The youth who do not have parents to guide them through their teenage years are highly likely to fall into peer pressure and begin to abuse drugs and alcohol as a way of relieving their stress (Pozniak, 2017). The popular culture promotes high-risk behaviors more than it condemns them. That is why a majority of movies portrays criminals as heroes as in the case of Ice and Power films. The evidence from these studies has proved to be compelling because it reflects what is happening in the society. There is, however, need to conduct further studies because research in this area is still scarce (Denniston et al., 2011).


The government through its agencies should enact stricter policies to limit media exposure to alcohol, tobacco and drug use to the youth in this country. Alcohol and cigarette companies are spending a lot of money towards advertising their products. The media depictions and adverts have become positive; hence they have not faced any critic unlike the past (Pozniak, 2017). This type of advertising invites mixed reactions among the youth on substance use. This kind of advertising has also limited the power of government to intervene. However, I feel that there is more than the government can do to further restrict marketing of alcohol and other substances in the media. There is need to limit the appeal of drug portrayal to the young people (Pozniak, 2017). The government should ensure all outlets that sell alcohol are licensed to avoid boom of alcohol outlets everywhere as in the case today. It is also necessary to reform alcohol and tobacco marketing practices to the youth to limit exposure through the development of new policies that run based on todays standards.


Denniston, M. M., Swahn, M. H., Hertz, M. F., & Romero, L. M. (2011). Associations Between Electronic Media Use and Involvement in Violence, Alcohol and Drug Use Among United States High School Students. Western Journal of Emergency medicine, 12(3), 310.

Gibson, S. (2016). Narcos: How It's Just Another Form of Cultural Imperialism. Highsnobiety. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from

Pozniak, A. (2017). Part 1: Media Portrayal of Drugs. ABC News. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from

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