Competing constructions of bath salts use and risk of harm in two mediated contexts

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Drawing on depictions of bath salts use in two different mediated contexts (110 local news reports, 109 individual user reports), in this study we highlight the incongruence between accounts of use and harm in news media versus drug users’ own narratives. Findings reveal that depictions of bath salts use in local news stories drew on three overlapping frames of risk and harm: a medical/health frame, a typifying example/atrocity story frame, and a legal/regulatory frame. User narratives were comparably neutral and richly descriptive, with tempered accounts of drug effects, psychopharmacological and other experiences while using, as well as tactics used to counter unpleasant effects. We find that both media forms limit discussions of drug use and risks of harm and are similarly dependent on a medical/health frame to legitimate them. The problem with news accounts is the denial of complex social and cultural contexts and possibilities regarding alternative drug policies. The problem with user narratives is the extent to which their accounts are moderated or excluded in order to manufacture a coherent public presentation of self, serving alternate ideological aims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-237
Number of pages21
JournalCrime, Media, Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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