Mainstream media tend to report more stories about illicit drugs than alcohol.
Stories about illicit drugs are also more negative. The media is more likely to frame illicit drugs as dangerous, morally corrosive and associated with violent behaviour, while it frames people who use illicit drugs as irresponsible and deviant.
In particular, the media is more likely to link illegal drugs with violent crimes, sexual assaults and murders than alcohol. This is despite one study finding 47% of homicides in Australia over a six-year period were alcohol-related.
Coverage of the recent Rainbow Serpent Festival in Victoria is one example of how the media have linked illegal drug use with violence. There were reports of alleged sexual and physical assaults at the festival, held over five days including Australia Day. But we’d argue there were no more than any alcohol-related violence and sexual assaults expected at a similarly large gathering on Australia Day.
Considering media reporting plays an important role in shaping people’s opinions, this might lead people to believe illicit drugs are more likely to lead to violence than alcohol. This is because of a type of cognitive bias or “mental shortcut”, known as the availability heuristic, which leads people to form opinions based on the most recent information they receive.
So what does the evidence say about whether alcohol or other drugs is more likely to lead to violence? And are some drugs worse than others?
Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.