Throughout different periods in my life, I have found that there is a certain level of exposure to psychoactive substances that most people cannot avoid. Due to the fact that they are so widely available, many people, either knowingly or unknowingly, are close to or in contact with someone who uses, is familiar with or has access to these substances. Despite this, one of the clearest messages I gained from this course was in understanding that there is a massive amount of misinformation about psychoactive substances that most people adhere to. Initially, I had very little interest in this course and did not intend to take it, however, a sincere recommendation from my advisor, as well as a realization that it would positively impact my graduation requirements, led me to change my mind. Although I did not intend to take the course, I found that it significantly changed how I understand psychoactive substances and what role they actually play in today’s world.
Although the benefits of the course were plentiful, one of the clearest impacts it had on my understanding of psychoactive substances was in changing my understanding of them altogether. Before taking this course, I believed that psychoactive substance was a term that referred to a select number of specific drugs or substances that people took, and thus narrowed the scope of the subject altogether. What I discovered was that this term included substances that went far beyond the scope I attributed to them, and that this was important because it was indicative of how many people are unaware of the full impact of the substances around them. The course would go on to point out all the ways that these substances are dangerous and should be avoided, without resorting to scare tactics. By choosing to rely strictly on the impact of the information about these substances, I feel that the course was effective in fully preparing me to understand what psychoactive substances were.
While the course itself was responsible for leading me to understand psychoactive substances more clearly, a residual impact of the course was in helping me to hold media influences to a higher standard. As the course pointed out that there is plenty of misinformation about psychoactive substances, I began to understand that widespread media has often fallen short in educating people about these substances. In many cases, the media has worked to undermine the efforts of warning against psychoactive substances and instead glamorized them in film, television and advertisements. Shows such as Mad Men and True Detective as well as films like Gran Torino have made substances like tobacco and alcohol and popular and accepted part of mainstream media culture, thus normalizing their dangerous effects. Instead of totally educating people about how dangerous these substances can be, the media has often battled within itself to keep psychoactive substances popular at certain points and challenging them at others. While the shortcomings of the media on psychoactive substances have been plenty, it is worth noting that private media outlets sometimes have different approaches.
Media outlets such as television, film and advertisements often share content based on what draws the most revenue, however, news outlets do not always have the same motivations. News outlets have often shown the way that psychoactive substances and their use has evolved, such as in the case of heroin and cocaine, which were both used to cure morphine addiction at different points (Humphreys par. 4). At other times, new outlets serve to inform the public about the widespread use of psychoactive drugs, pointing out that approximately 5% of the world’s population recently abused drugs, and that there are almost 30 million people who are dependent on narcotics in 2017 (Associated Press 1). While popular, mainstream media can glamorize psychoactive substances, it seems that news media outlets still counteract this by informing the public about their effects. This has certainly been the case for me and continues to be so as I pay closer attention after this course.
Associated Press. “5 percent of world population recently abused drugs: UN.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 June 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/world/about-5-percent-of-world-population-recently-used-drugs-un/2017/06/22/c4f5f2fe-573b-11e7-840b-512026319da7_story.html?utm_term=.050e564bb465. Accessed 26 June 2017.
Humphreys, Keith. “Analysis | Doctors once treated alcoholism with heroin. Now, they want to treat heroin addiction with marijuana.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 Apr. 2017, ww.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/11/doctors-once-treated-alcoholism-with-heroin-now-they-want-to-treat-heroin-addiction-with-marijuana/?utm_term=.a141a068d08a. Accessed 26 June 2017.