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Jun 5, 2019

Since the beginning of the so-called War on Drugs, authorities in the United States have viewed drugs not as a public health issue but one of crime, vice and violence, requiring the funding and mobilization not of medical officials but police, DEA agents and a sprawling network of paramilitary actors.

In response, corporate media and its culture of parasitic, “ride-along” coverage has evolved in parallel taking this same line, reflecting the state’s approach rather than influencing or challenging it. “Drug stories,” with rare exception, fall under the “crime” reporting rubric rather than being seen as stories to be covered by reporters familiar with the actual science of drugs and addiction - skirting empiricism for police stenography and cartoon narratives replete with good guys and bad guys.

The result: a feedback loop of a police and federal government determined to keep the War on Drugs in their domain, shaping a media narrative that manufactures and manipulates the public’s and lawmakers’ perception of drugs and drug-related crime. But what if there’s another way? Increasingly, public health advocates and journalists have been pushing back, trying to demilitarize not just the public approach to drugs but how they’re covered in the media.

On this episode, we explore how we got to this point––where drugs are viewed as an enemy force to be combated with violence and prisons––and highlight ways people are trying to fundamentally rewire the way we talk about the problems of drugs and addiction.

With guest Zachary Siegel, Journalism Fellow at Northeastern University’s Health in Justice Action Lab.