Which Does The Media Write About More—Heroin or Weed?
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Which Does The Media Write About More—Heroin or Weed?


This post was originally published on May 27, 2014.

A man by the name of Andrew Larson once created a tool that tracks Twitter mentions of drugs and drug use in real time. Weed tweets came in highest, and alcohol came in second as far as tweety mass popularity. Interestingly, nearly no one had anything to say about acid (uh does anyone actually take it anymore?).

Next Up: Drugs in the News

Now the enterprising Mr. Larson is back to the land of drug-talk-tracking with his new interactive that shows which drugs news organizations discuss most, in real time. What he’s determined, “by scraping the RSS feeds of twenty major news sites,” is that pot is totally the drug most in the news. Which makes sense: with the legalization efforts and controversy around medical marijuana, plus the ever-more-popular notion that pot is harmless, how could weed not be number one?

In his interactive, Larson divides the charts into street drugs and pharmaceutical ones like codeine (which apparently has been in the news a ton lately, partially due to the “countless links to a new study showing that emergency rooms still provide codeine to children almost as frequently as they did ten years ago, despite the discovery of many adverse effects on youngsters.”) Um, yikes.

This Just In: Heroin

When looking at the more taboo and dangerous substances, though, heroin reigns supreme for newsy mentions over the last 30 days—surely the result of heroin use being on the rise across the country. Plus, due to the increased legalization of weed, either medical or non, “Mexican drug cartels and farmers are turning more and more to heroin to help make up for lost pot profits.”

Never a Good Portrait of Addicts

I’ve always found it frustrating how little the media talks frankly and openly about addiction—it’s a massive affliction affecting tens of thousands of people in this country, yet we still talk about it in ways that stigmatize addicts. The media generally seems to enjoy advancing the narrative that addicts just can’t make the decision to get sober, and that if they pulled themselves up by their boot straps, they could conquer their vice and rejoin the land of the functional human workforce. Blah. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, not really—addiction is a medical condition that deserves both sensitivity and respect. Addicts aren’t the devil, but you wouldn’t know it from how they’re commonly discussed in the media.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.