Does Media Play A Role In Addiction?

As I worked a drug prevention program in public high schools a few years ago, I was surprised to hear the conversation [concerning the addictions] of rural area students very similar to the conversation of urban area students.

How could this be? What was the common link?

The link I found was the media. The media portrayal of illicit sex, drugs, violence, and the mockery of traditional family values is contributing much to our addictive society.

George Barna reports in his book, Absolute Confusion:

According to the American people, one of the big winners in the repositioning of influences has been the mass media. Six out of ten respondents told us that journalists and media personalities have more influence today than they did 5 years ago; only 1 out of every eight respondents said the media have less influence these days . . . Among the boomers and busters, the influence of the media was said to have increased rather than decreased by better than an 8 to 1 margin (26).

On November 27, 1995, in the Chattanooga Free Press, an Associated Press writer reported:

New York-In a virtual replay of scenes from the new movie Money Train, two men squeezed a flammable liquid into a subway token booth and ignited it, blowing it up and critically burning the clerk. ‘We know from experience that when you get movie and television depictions of criminal activity, it is often copycatted,’ Transit Authority President Alan Kiepper said after the explosion Sunday.

One of the best publications on the media’s influence is Youth and Drugs: Society’s Mixed Message published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this publication, Todd Gitlin, Ph.D., says, “By their nature, the media reflect that culture [consumer-oriented thrill seeking] and have conditioned Americans to accept drug use as part of it” (Resnik, 31).

Other significant points in this book include: “In important ways, television, more than the other mass media, can be likened to a drug and the audience’s dependency on it to a kind of addiction. . . . For many people, television is a dulling, low-risk sort of drug. Many people, especially children, watch it in sort of a trance” (Resnik, 39).

Television can be experienced as both a stimulant and a depressant. Like ingested drugs, it is often combined with food or conversation. Viewers say it makes them feel “drowsy,” “weak,” and “passive” (Resnik, 39). People tend to turn to television when in personal difficulties and to binge on it (Resnik, 39).

Chuck Colson in his book, The Body, says, “While Scripture provided the most cohesive force in culture forty years ago, it seems that the base of common understanding and communication today is the television networks” (167). There is no question that television elevates pleasure and in doing so contributes heavily to this addictive society. It places a thirst in the individual to pursue pleasure without counting the cost. It is no surprise then that to abstain from television is to suffer withdrawal symptoms such as depression, insomnia, and chain-smoking (Resnik, 39).

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Living Free, Inc. 
All Rights Reserved

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