Media Panic: On the Ice ‘Epidemic’.

The media has for a long time influenced popular belief. This blog post is aiming to explore the Australian media’s portrayal of the drug Methamphetamine and how that in turn influenced the media’s consumers. Methamphetamine has three main forms: Crystalline (ice or crystal), powder (speed) and base (druginfo, 2015). Australia’s media has being focusing on the crystalline form referred to as Ice.

After reviewing five media outlets (SBS, ABC, News.com.au, The Conversation, The Bordermail) there were many fear instilling words and phrases used in relation to Ice. These include ‘epidemic’ (SBS, 2014) and ‘plague’ (Herald Sun cited in ABC, 2014) and claims; “Australia has one of the highest rates of illicit methamphetamine use in the world” (The Conversation, 2013), “Ice, or methylamphetamine, has been around for years but in the past two to three years its use has surged…” (news.com.au, 2015).
Has this issue being exaggerated by the media and how has this influenced political decisions?


(Daily Telegraph, 2015)

Lancaster et al. (2014) discusses these two points. Citing the ABC 4 Corners program ‘The Ice Age’ in 2006 as a key instigator that encouraged increasing media coverage. The program suggesting the drug as “…More destructive than any other drug Australia has ever seen. It’s cheap and it’s highly addictive.“(Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006). This claim is one of many that an article published by The Age highlights to be inaccurate:

Ice is NOT the most addictive drug…Ice is not a major drug of choice for young people…Younger people are more likely to be using alcohol...No more than 2 per cent of Australians have ever used ice and only 10 per cent of them are problematic users.” (The Age, 2015).
Lancaster et al. (2014) describes how the Australian Government reacted. New policies were introduced which led to water and ‘ice’ pipe sale and supply being banned in N.S.W. Additionally $37.9 million for law enforcement was dedicated to reduce the use of Amphetamine-type stimulants over four years.

The effect on the media’s consumers was dramatic;
By 2007, public opinion about the issue of methamphetamine was shifting… When asked about the drug they thought to be most associated with a drug ‘problem’, the proportion of National Drug Strategy Household Survey respondents naming methamphetamine increased significantly from 5.5% in 2004 to 16.4% in 2007” (Lancaster et al., 2014).
This rise of 10.9% in only three years displays the significant influence the mass media has on its audience.

The 2% of population that Ice effects fails to qualify it as a so called ‘epidemic’. Clearly the media has constructed a sense of panic, instilling fear into its audience not based on factual evidence. This case study displays the influence the Australian media has over public and political opinions.

Reference List:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2014, ‘Headline facts v fiction’, transcript, Media Watch, ABC, 25 September, accessed 11/03/2016, http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4088236.htm

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006 ‘The Ice Age’, Four Corners, accessed 10/03/2016, http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2011/08/08/3288566.htm

Daily Telegraph, 2015, ‘Australia’s drug epidemic: 9000 km trip through the heart of our Ice Nation’, accessed 10/03/2016, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/special-features/australias-drug-epidemic-a-9000km-trip-through-the-heart-of-our-ice-nation/news-story/f75f03f349679fc2a6b376d69b3649be

Druginfo.sl.nsw.gov.au, 2015, ‘Ice, speed & other methamphetamines’, accessed 10/03/2016, http://www.druginfo.sl.nsw.gov.au/drugs/list/methamphetamines.html

Lancaster, K, Ritter, A and Colebatch, H 2014, ‘Problems, policy and politics: making sense of Australia’s ‘ice epidemic’’, Policy Studies, 35,2, pp.147-171 , accessed 10/02/2016, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01442872.2013.875144

News.com.au, 2015, ‘The crisis we can no longer ignore.’, accessed 10/03/2016, http://www.news.com.au/national/inside-australias-drug-epidemic-how-ice-is-tearing-our-country-apart/news-story/e8e525490732c7aced328d001481df05

Special Broadcasting Service, 2014, ‘Ice Towns’, The Feed, accessed 11/03/2016, http://www.sbs.com.au/icetowns/

The Conversation, 2013 ‘Explainer: methamphetamine use and addiction in Australia’, accessed 10/03/2016, http://theconversation.com/explainer-methamphetamine-use-and-addiction-in-australia-13280 

The Age, 2015, ‘Families need to be at centre of ‘ice’ strategy’, accessed 10/03/2016, http://www.theage.com.au/comment/families-need-to-be-at-centre-of-ice-strategy-20150409-1mhg83.html



2 thoughts on “Media Panic: On the Ice ‘Epidemic’.

  1. Hi Marianne,
    This blog post on Media Anxieties is spot on. I absolutely agree that when the media discusses issues such as Australian Drug Use, they only provide and promote the extreme perspective. People are subsequently influenced by what they read and are encouraged to agree with the media that the use of ‘Ice’ in Australia is an ‘epidemic’ and a ‘plague’.
    It is interesting to note the ways in which the government of Australia is employing a range of techniques to attempt to solve the problem. However the media, minutely publish these stories and solely focus on telling their audiences how big a problem this is. This article on ‘Drug Info’ details how legislation was instilled in Sydney to develop permanent health services to initially support to safer injection of drugs. . This would allow you to comparatively elaborate on the media anxiety relating to ice. It details that the Government understands that they can’t abolish the use of the methamphetamine entirely, however it can initially be ensured that the drug is taken safely and diseases are not transmitted through unsafe injection methods.
    The media however, as strongly noted in your blog, chooses to neglect to publish major stories related to this step in decreasing unsafe drug usage and more so emphasise the notion of the problem being a plague and epidemic.
    – Jackson

    Liked by 1 person

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