Pubdate: Wed, 28 Apr 1999
Source: U.S. Newswire
Copyright: 1999, U.S. Newswire


WASHINGTON - A first time study that
portrays the degree of illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in
selected popular movies and music was released today by the White
House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration. The study examined the 200 most popular movie
rentals and 1000 of the most popular songs from 1996 and 1997.
Findings revealed that 98 percent of movies studied depicted substance
use. Illicit drugs appeared in 22 percent of the movies studied.
Twenty-seven percent of the 1000 songs contained a clear reference to
either alcohol or illicit drugs. This is the first national study of
its kind to quantify the frequency and nature of substance use in
entertainment media.

"These findings underscore the potential for the entertainment
industry to play a key role in protecting our kids from the dangers of
drugs through realistic depiction -- portraying illicit drug use, and
all substance abuse, as unglamorous, dangerous and socially
unacceptable," said Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy. "Young people clearly are surrounded by
portrayals of substance use. The challenge is to help them better
understand it and reject it."

"The entertainment media can have an enormous impact on society and
these findings show that drug references and messages are part of our
children's lives," said Nelba Chavez, Ph.D., administrator of the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Parents
and care givers need to be involved in the selection of entertainment
activities. They must serve as a role model and reinforce anti-drug
messages as well as discuss the dangers of alcohol and tobacco use."

Following are some of the key findings of the study:

- -- According to the study, 98 percent of movies and 27 percent of
songs depict illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

- -- Illicit drugs appeared in 22 percent of movies. -- Fewer than 15%
of young characters who smoked marijuana or cigarettes experienced any
apparent consequences of their use.

- -- Consequences of substance use were depicted in about half of the
movies in which they appeared and in about one-fifth of the songs.

- -- 26 percent of movies portrayed illicit drug use in a humorous

- -- Illicit drug use was associated with wealth or luxury in 20 percent
of the songs in which drugs appeared, with sexual activity in 30
percent, and with crime or violence in 20 percent.

- -- While, overall, there are few African American characters in
movies, these characters are portrayed as using drugs at a
disproportionately high rate.

- -- Alcohol and tobacco were used in over 76 percent of movies rated G
or PG, and in an overwhelming majority of PG-13 movies (tobacco - 82
percent; alcohol - 94 percent)

The study was prompted by two facts: the growing drug problem among
America's youth combined with the reality that America's teenagers are
heavy consumers of motion pictures and popular music. While it is not
inferred that drug messages in the media cause drug use, media can
influence young people's perceptions of what is "normal" and
"acceptable", as well as their perceptions as to how harmful or
harmless drugs are. The study was commissioned to establish a basis
for dialogue with the entertainment industry on substance use
depiction and encourage parental action.

"There is some good news to report," said McCaffrey. "The
entertainment industry is already working on a variety of fronts, with
government and private organizations, to develop solution-oriented
initiatives and programs with more accurate messages and images."
McCaffrey and other health leaders have already made a series of
presentations to major studios and ONDCP has planned larger workshops
in Los Angeles and New York for later this year.

The study release was accompanied by wide agreement among substance
abuse prevention leaders that the findings should send a strong signal
to all parents of teens and pre-teens, who are heavy consumers of
popular movies and music, to help their children be alert and informed
viewers. To provide guidance to parents on how to teach their children
to think more critically and better understand what they see and hear
in movies and music, ONDCP and SAMHSA recommend several simple tips
parents should follow:

- -- Monitor what your kids are watching and listening to -- approve
purchases and rentals

- -- Use movies and songs as catalysts for discussion -- talk about
alcohol, tobacco and drugs

- -- Help young people separate fact from fiction -- teach them not to
always believe what they see and hear

- -- Ensure they understand negative consequences -- that aren't always
apparent in media

The Substance Abuse in Popular Movies and Music Study was commissioned
jointly by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The
research was conducted by Mediascope, a nonprofit organization
concerned with accurate and responsible depiction of social and health
issues in the media, particularly as they relate to children and
adolescents. Lead researchers were Donald F. Roberts, Ph.D. and Lisa
Henriksen, Ph.D., at Stanford University and Peter G. Christenson,
Ph.D., at Lewis and Clark College.
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