Bulletin no. 13: Popular culture and the prevention of illicit drug use

Rationale

In terms of the four key strategies underpinning drug policy – law enforcement, treatment, harm reduction and prevention – prevention is arguably the weakest. It is currently narrowly conceived and does not have an effective guiding idea, in contrast to substitution therapy for drug treatment. It also does not have a dedicated practice sector, unlike law enforcement. It is noteworthy that popular culture is key in normalising attitudes to illicit drugs, and that this is largely ignored in the prevention literature. We are not suggesting that there is a simple or direct causal link, but instead that the cultural milieu can influence the acceptability of illicit drug use.

Our aim was to determine if it was feasible to investigate the impact of popular culture on illicit drug use and we therefore undertook a pilot study on popular music.