Advertisement

Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 664–686 | Cite as

The War on Drugs That Wasn’t: Wasted Whiteness, “Dirty Doctors,” and Race in Media Coverage of Prescription Opioid Misuse

  • Julie Netherland
  • Helena B. HansenEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

The past decade in the U.S. has been marked by a media fascination with the white prescription opioid cum heroin user. In this paper, we contrast media coverage of white non-medical opioid users with that of black and brown heroin users to show how divergent representations lead to different public and policy responses. A content analysis of 100 popular press articles from 2001 and 2011 in which half describe heroin users and half describe prescription opioid users revealed a consistent contrast between criminalized urban black and Latino heroin injectors with sympathetic portrayals of suburban white prescription opioid users. Media coverage of the suburban and rural opioid “epidemic” of the 2000s helped draw a symbolic, and then legal, distinction between (urban) heroin addiction and (suburban and rural) prescription opioid addiction that is reminiscent of the legal distinction between crack cocaine and powder cocaine of the 1980s and 1990s. This distinction reinforces the racialized deployment of the War on Drugs and is sustained by the lack of explicit discussion of race in the service of “color blind ideology.” We suggest potential correctives to these racially divergent patterns, in the form of socially responsible media practices and of clinical engagement with public policy.

Keywords

Addiction Whiteness Prescription opioids Media Heroin 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We wish to acknowledge the crucial assistance of Alyson Kaplan, Danae DiRocco, Laura Duncan and Sewit Bereket with data analysis.

Funding

Support for this study was received from the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Investigator Award (to Helena Hansen) and U.S. National Institutes of Health grant DA032674 (to Helena Hansen).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to declare.

References

  1. ABC News 2010 The New Face of Heroin Addiction. October 30. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/face-heroin-addiction-12009941, accessed May 7, 2015.
  2. Acevedo, Andrea, Deborah Garnick, Robert Dunigan, Constance M. Horgan, Grant A. Ritter, Margeret T. Lee, Lee Panas, Kevin Campbell, Karin Haberlin, Dawn Lambert-Wacy, Tracy Leeper, Mark Reynolds, David Wright 2015 Performance Measures and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders. Journal of Studies in Alcohol and Drugs 76(1):57–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alcoff, Linda 2015. The Future of Whiteness. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  4. Alexander, Michelle 2010 The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, Elijah 2015 The White Space. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1):10–21.Google Scholar
  6. Arria, Amelia and Robert DuPont 2010 Nonmedical prescription stimulant use among college students: why we need to do something and what we need to do. Journal of Addictive Diseases 29(4):417–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bigg, Matthew 2007 Report says U.S. Jails More Blacks than Whites for Drugs. Reuters, December 4: http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/12/05/us-usa-drugs-race-idUSN0453686820071205, accessed May 7, 2015.
  8. Boeri, Miriam Williams, Liam Harbry, and David Gibson 2009 A Qualitative Exploration of Trajectories Among Suburban Users of Methamphetamine.” Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research 3(3): 139.Google Scholar
  9. Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo 2003 Racism Without Racists: Color Blind Racism and Persistence of Racial Inequality in the U.S., Lanham, MD: Rowman Littlefield.Google Scholar
  10. Bourgois, Philippe and Jeffrey Schonberg 2009 Righteous Dopefiend. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Braun, Lundy 2014 Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics. University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.Google Scholar
  12. Bryan, Bill 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 14 are Facing Charges Tied to Trafficking of Heroin Here. Metro B2.Google Scholar
  13. Campbell, Nancy 2000 Using Women: Gender, Drug Policy, and Social Justice. Oxford: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  14. Carroll, Linda 2014 Hooked: A Teacher’s Addiction and the New Face of Heroin. Today Health, http://www.today.com/health/hooked-teachers-addiction-new-face-heroin-2D79496263, accessed electronically May 7, 2015.
  15. Cartwright, David T. 1982 Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Chicago Daily Herald 2001 Look for ways to disrupt the drug flow on the West Side. p. 9.Google Scholar
  17. Cicero, Theodore J., Matthew S. Ellis, and Hilary L. Surrat 2012 Effect of Abuse-Deterrent Formulation of OxyContin. The New England Journal of Medicine 367(2):187–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Courtwright, David 2001 Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  19. Daniels, Jessie 2012 Intervention: Reality TV, whiteness, and narratives of addiction in Critical Perspectives on Addiction. J. Netherland (ed.), p.103-128. Emerald Group: Bingley, UK.Google Scholar
  20. Davis, Dana-Ain 2007 Narrating the Mute: Racializing and Racism in a Neoliberal Moment. Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture & Society 9(4):346–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dasgupta Nabarun, Creppage Kathleen, Austin Anna, Ringwall Christopher, Sanford Catherine, and Scott Proescholdbell 2014 Observed Transition from Opioid Analgesic Deaths Toward Heroin. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 145:238–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Day, Bernie 2011 It Happened to a Kid Like Ian. Roanoke Times. http://www.roanoke.com/webmin/opinion/it-happened-to-a-bright-kid-like-ian/article_dbdb0437-c827-525f-9221-8d8f2731d5e3.html, accessed September 17, 2015.
  23. DEA N.d. 2013 National Take Back Initiative. http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/, accessed February, 18, 2013.
  24. DeGregory, Lane 2011 A Young Woman Struggles with Oxy Addiction and Recovery. Tampa Bay Times. http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/a-young-woman-struggles-with-oxy-addiction-and-recovery/1206405, accessed September 17, 2015.
  25. Elbow, Steven 2011 Crime and Courts: Heroin Deaths and Overdoses Already at Record Levels for the Year. The Cap Times. http://host.madison.com/news/local/crime_and_courts/blog/crime-and-courts-heroin-deaths-and-overdoses-already-at-record/article_d577cf74-e605-11e0-a3df-001cc4c03286.html, accessed September 17, 2015.
  26. Elliott, Bill 2011 How Pain Medication Can Lead to Abuse. Marinnij.com, http://www.marinij.com/ci_19257149, accessed September 17, 2015.
  27. Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw 2011 Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Felner, Jamie 2009 Race, Drugs and Law Enforcement in the United States. Stanford Law Review 20(2):257–292.Google Scholar
  29. Fullwiley, Duana 2007 The Molecularization of Race: Institutionalizing Human Difference in Pharmacogenetics Practice. Science as Culture 16(1):1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Garriott, William 2011 Policing methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in rural America. New York: NYU Press.Google Scholar
  31. Garriott, William 2013. Methamphetamine in Rural America: Notes on Its Emergence. Anthropology Now, 5(1): 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goode, Erica 2013 Incarceration Rates for Blacks Dropped, Report Shows. New York Times, February 27. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/us/incarceration-rates-for-blacks-dropped-report-shows.html, accessed September 17, 2015.
  33. Green, Carmen R., Karen O. Anderson, Tamara A. Baker, Lisa C. Campbell, Sheila Decker, Roger B. Fillingim, Donna A. Kaloukalani, Kathyrn E. Lasch, Cynthia Myers, Raymond C. Tait, Knox H. Todd, and April H. Vallerand 2003 The Unequal Burden of Pain: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Pain. Pain Medicine 4(3):277–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Haffajee Rebecca, Anupam B. Jena, and Scott G. Weiner 2015 Mandatory Use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. Journal of the American Medical Assocation 313(9):891–892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hansen, H., and M. Skinner 2012 From White Bullets to Black Markets and Greened Medicine: The Neuroeconomics and Neuroracial Politics of Opioid Pharmaceuticals. Annals of Anthropological Practice 36(1):167–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hansen, Helena B. and Sanuel K. Roberts 2012 Two Tiers of Biomedicalization: Buprenorphine, Methadone and the Biopolitics of Addiction Stigma and Race. Advances in Medical Sociology 14:79–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hansen, Helena B., Carole E. Siegel, Brady G. Case, David N. Bertollo, Danae DiRocco, and Marc Galanter 2013 Variation in Use of Buprenorphine and Methadone Treatment by Racial, Ethnic and Income Characteristics of Residential Social Areas in New York City. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research 40(3):367–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hanson, Carl L., Scott H. Burton, Christophe Giraud-Carrier, Josh H. West, Michael D. Barnes, and Bret Hansen. 2013. Tweaking and Tweeting: Exploring Twitter for Nonmedical Use of a Psychostimulant Drug (Adderall) Among College Students. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(4), p.e62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Inciardi, James and Theodore Cicero 2009 Black Beauties, Gorilla Pills, Footballs, and Hillbilly Heroin: Some Reflections on Prescription Drug Abuse and Diversion Research Over the Past 40 years. Journal of Drug Issues, 39(1): 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lassiter, Matthew D. 2015 Impossible Criminals: The Suburban Imperatives of America’s War on Drugs. The Journal of American History, June: 126–140.Google Scholar
  41. Lee, Jonathan 2013 “The New Face of Drug Addiction” Fox News July 19. Accessed electronically May 7, 2015 http://fox40.com/2013/07/19/new-face-of-drug-addiction/.
  42. Lingard, Lorelei, Mathieu Albert, and Wendy Levinson 2008 Grounded Theory, Mixed Methods and Action Research. British Medical Journal, 337:459–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Linnemann, Travis and Kurtz, Don 2014 Beyond the Ghetto: Police Power, Methamphetamine and the Rural War on Drugs. Critical Criminology, 22(3): 339–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Linnemann, Travis and Wall, Tyler 2013 This is Your Face on Meth’: The Punitive Spectacle of ‘White Trash’i n the Rural War on Drugs. Theoretical Criminology, 17(3): 315–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lipsitz, George 2004 White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, 2nd edition. Paula S Rothenberg, ed. Worth Publishers.Google Scholar
  46. London, Catherine 2011 Racial Impact Statements: A Proactive Approach to Addressing Racial Disparities in Prison Populations. 29 Law & Ineq. 211.Google Scholar
  47. Mauer, Marc 2009 Racial Impact Statements: Changing Policies to Address Disparities. Criminal Justice, 23(4):16.Google Scholar
  48. Mendoza, Sonia, Allyssa S. Rivera, and Helena B. Hansen In press Shifting Blame: Buprenorphine Prescribers, Addiction Treatment, and Prescription Monitoring in Middle-Class America. Transcultural Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  49. Messina, Lawrence 2011 Mingo Doctor Faces State Charges Acosta Allegedly Told Patients, ‘What are You Going to Do for Me?’ November 2, Charleston Gazette. News; Pg. P4D.Google Scholar
  50. Metzl, Jonathan M. and Helena B. Hansen 2014 Structural Competency: Theorizing a New Medical Engagement with Tigma and Inequality. Social Science and Medicine 103:126–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Michels, Scott 2008 Heroin in Suburbia: the New Face of Addiction. ABC News, August 4. http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/Story?id=5494972&page=1, accessed September 17, 2015.
  52. Murakawa, Naomi 2011. Toothless. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 8(01):219–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Musto, David F. 1973 The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. National Institute on Drug Abuse 2014 What is the Scope of Heroin Use in the United States? http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states, accessed September 17, 2015.
  55. Netherland, J., and H. Hansen 2016 White Opioids: Pharmaceutical Race and the War on Drugs that Wasn’t. BioSocieties. doi: 10.1057/biosoc.2015.
  56. Nowatzki, Mike and Sam Benshoof 2011 F-M Police to Zero in on Heroin as Area Sees Rash of Cases. December 4, InForum: the forum of Fargo-Moorhead. https://secure.forumcomm.com/?publisher_ID=1&article_id=342824, accessed September 17, 2015.
  57. Ostrow, Joanne 2001 Heroin’s Harsh Reality. Denver Post http://extras.denverpost.com/scene/ost102.htm, accessed September 17, 2015.
  58. Peffley, M., T. Shields, and B. Williams 1996 The Intersection of Race and Crime in Television News Stories: An Experimental Study. Political Communication 13(3): 309–328.Google Scholar
  59. Pittsburg Post-Gazette 2011 Addiction’s toll: The Scourge of Heroin Strikes too Close to Home. July 31. http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2011/07/31/Addiction-s-toll-The-scourge-of-heroin-strikes-too-close-to-home/stories/201107310204, accessed September 17, 2015.
  60. Pollock, Anne 2012 Medicating Race: Heart Disease and Durable Preoccupations with Difference. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Poltilove, Josh 2011 Julie Schenecker’s Attorney: Dad Should Never Have left Kids with Her. December 5, Tampa Tribune. http://tbo.com/news/crime/julie-scheneckers-attorney-dad-should-never-have-left-kids-with-her-331297, accessed September 17, 2015.
  62. Pruitt, Lisa 2015 Who’s Afraid of White Class Migrants? On Denial, Discrediting, and Disdain (and Toward a Richer Conception of Diversity). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 31(284):227.Google Scholar
  63. Raver, Diane 2011 Heroin death: ‘She Thought it Would be Fun’. March 25, Batesville Herald-Tribune. http://www.batesvilleheraldtribune.com/news/local_news/heroin-death-she-thought-it-would-be-fun/article_26ca9e08-158e-5cb2-b1cc-560d7fea10f5.html, accessed September 17, 2015.
  64. Reeves, Scott, Ayelet Kuper, and Brian David Hodges 2008 Qualitative Research Methodologies: Ethnography. British Medical Journal, 337:512–514.Google Scholar
  65. Reinarman, Craig 1994 The Social Construction of Drug Scares in Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and lnteraction Adler & Adler, eds. Wadsworth Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  66. Reinarman, C., and H.G. Levine 2004 Crack in the Rear-View Mirror: Deconstructing Drug War Mythology. Social Justice 31(1-2): 182–199.Google Scholar
  67. Rich, Josiah D., Sarah E. Wakeman, and Samuel L. Dickman 2011 Medicine and the Epidemic of Incarceration in the U.S. New England Journal of Medicine 364(22): 2081–2083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Roberts, Dorothy 2011 Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  69. Schiavone, Christian 2011 Weymouth, Quincy and Brockton to Hold Vigils in Memory of Overdose Victims. July 27, Patriot Ledger. http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20110727/News/307279370, accessed September 17, 2015.
  70. Schwartz, Yardena 2012 Painkiller Use Breeds New Face of Heroin Addiction. NBC News June 19. http://dailynightly.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/19/12303942-painkiller-use-breeds- new-face-of-heroin-addiction?lite, accessed February 13, 2013.
  71. Scotti, Roseanne and Steven Kronenberg 2001 Symposium: U.S. drug laws: the New Jim Crow?: foreword. Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review 10:303–310.Google Scholar
  72. Seelye, Katherine Q. 2013 Heroin in New England, more abundant and more deadly. New York Times July 19, A11.Google Scholar
  73. Singer, Merrill 2008 Drugging the Poor: Legal and Illegal Drug Industries and the Structuring of Social Inequality. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  74. Solinger, Rickie 2013 Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade (Kindle Locations 5990-5991). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.Google Scholar
  75. Steiner, Benjamin D., and Victor Argothy 2001 White Addiction: Racial Inequality, Racial Ideology, and the War on Drugs. Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review 10:443–475.Google Scholar
  76. Strauss, Anselm, and Juliet Corbin 1997 Grounded Theory in Practice. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  77. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2010 Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings. Rockville: Office of Applied Studies.Google Scholar
  78. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2014 Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Google Scholar
  79. Sullivan, Caryn 2011 Prescription Drugs: Lock Your Cabinets, and Know the Risks. May 27, St. Paul Pioneer Press. http://www.carynsullivanscribe.com/prescription-drugs-lock-your-cabinets-and-know-the-risks/, accessed September 17, 2015.
  80. Talbot, Margaret 2009 Brain Gain: the Underground World of ‘Neuroenhancing’ Drugs. The New Yorker April 27, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/04/27/brain-gain.
  81. Taylor, S. 2008 Outside the Outsiders: Media Representation of Drug Use. Probation Journal 55(4): 369–387.Google Scholar
  82. Tiger, Rebecca 2012 Judging Addicts: Drug Courts and Coercion in the Criminal Justice System. New York: NYU Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Tunnell, Kenneth 2004. Cultural constructions of the hillbilly heroin and crime problem pp. 133–142 in Ferrell, Jeff, Keith Hayward, Wayne Morrison, and Mike Presdee, eds. Cultural criminology unleashed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  84. Tunnell, Kenneth 2005 The OxyContin Epidemic and Crime Panic in Rural Kentucky. Contemporary Drug Problems 32.2: 225–258.Google Scholar
  85. U.S. Census Bureau 2009 Law Enforcement, Courts, & Prisons: Arrests. Available at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/law_enforcement_courts_prisons/arrests.html, accessed February 18, 2013.
  86. U.S. Congress 2010 Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act. One Hundred Eleventh Congress of the United States of America.Google Scholar
  87. Wacquant, Loic 2009 Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Warsmith, S. 2001 2 Akron Teens die; Drug Use Suspected Initial Evidence Points to Accidental Overdose of North High Seniors. May 30, Akron Beacon Journal.Google Scholar
  89. Williams, Edward Huntington 1914 Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace. New York Times, Magazine Section, Page SM12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York Office of the Drug Policy AllianceNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations