Hollywood TV scripts depict reality of drug use


ChartFiction writers working on prime time television programs were found by a new study to have a remarkably accurate sense of the state of drug use in the US. Rather than toss stereotypical drug imagery into their plots, a study from USC says scripts tend to offer realistic portrayals of drug users.

The Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is specifically responsible for the report. The full study also looked at terrorism in TV plots and is called The Prime Time War on Drugs and Terrorism.

The War on Drugs segment was said to be highly topical due to its prominence in the discussions at the recently held Summit of the Americas.

The study included analysis of 49 hours worth of material from 10 popular television programs, including NCIS, CSI: Miami, Law & Order: SVU, House and The Good Wife.

Describing the report, the Annenberg released an excerpt that stated, “In TV storylines about the War on Drugs, drug users are not arrested and drug suspects are often portrayed as morally ambiguous or even heroic. In these TV shows, 65% of drug suspects are white, accurately reflecting that the vast majority of drug users (and likely offenders) in the U.S. are white.

Despite the predominance of African-Americans and other minorities in U.S. prisons for drug violations, most drug manufacturers and dealers in the series studied were white. Prescription drug abuse and methamphetamines were depicted three times more often than recreational marijuana.”

The project was funded by the ACLU, and analysis was provided by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.