Substance use in TV and the Media

Substance use is represented everywhere. Drugs and alcohol are mentioned in music, movies, TV shows, and on social media. Though some substance use in media is meant to be educational, often, casual appearances of substances can glorify substance use. 

Can seeing substances in movies, TV, or music videos actually impact substance use amongst our population? Some medical studies have shown that parents who limit their child’s exposure to R-rated movies more successfully counteracted peer pressure for their child to start drinking. Another study by Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine found that the more often 15-year-olds saw drinking in movies, the more likely they were to drink themselves. Read more about this study here

Imagine going to a sporting event, amusement park, wedding, or holiday party that doesn’t serve alcohol. Chances are, it’s not a common occurrence. Alcohol is completely ingrained in our culture – which is why a drinking scene appears on American television every 22 minutes on average. One potentially dangerous effect of alcohol in tv or movies is the tendency to use it as a “reward” for a hard day or an appropriate response to financial troubles or stress. Intentionally or not, this can influence people to use alcohol or other substances as a crutch. 

While adults have typically already formed their opinions on substances, media exposure of drugs and alcohol can be particularly harmful to young adults and children. Adolescents are more likely to model the behaviors they see not only at home, but in the media. If their favorite character on tv is drinking underaged or trying a cigarette for the first time, they may believe they can do the same themselves. If you are a parent or guardian, it’s crucial to not only talk openly and often about substance use, but to monitor the influence they receive from television, movies, music, and social media.