Drug use in the media

December 8th, 2015 in Features

Soap storyline Coronation St 1 JPG

We asked Home Group clients, colleagues and partners in Gloucestershire to discuss Coronation Street’s recent drugs storyline. Natalie Taylorson, Support Coordinator, led the debate…

Many issues over the years have been publically explored using popular media.

I remember watching ITV's 'The Bill' when they ran a storyline on the distribution of an amphetamine called Flatliners - a pill that two nights later was offered to me in between a gulp of 20:20 and White Lightning.

It might sound like an average day in the 90's, but it was in the local park and I was only 14 years old.
At that age the words ‘addiction’ and ‘gateway’ didn't register in my thought process.

I had actually only declined because the storyline had raised an alarm deep inside me.

Maybe at this stage I didn't believe all pills were bad, but, through the media, I had learned that this one in particular could be fatal.

It was that night that I understood that television was used for more than mere entertainment.

Years later, and ITV are still using their media as a platform to educate people on important or relevant issues.

The recent Coronation Street storyline propelled me back to that night, as the charismatic yet dangerous Callum Logan brought drugs and drama to the street.

As with the majority of soap opera storylines, the reality may have been distorted through the plots many twists and turns.

However, does that necessarily mean that the topics themselves get over shadowed by the drama? I opened up the floor to a panel of clients and professionals…

Rosie Boyle, client service manager, The ATLAS Project

It's good that the media picks up on real life topics that help both children and adults realise what kind of issues are happening in our society.

These subjects do need addressing, however, I think the dramatisation can sometimes mask the reality of it.

Misleading plots can put fear into people and sometimes give them the assumption that they know how to deal with an issue because they saw it on TV.

The media oversimplify issues that in real life are more complicated and involve more factors.   

I think they are doing well to use different outlets to highlight issues to audiences, but I do think the public has to bear in mind that this is fictional and not read too much in to it.

Lauren Regan, social work student, The University of Gloucestershire.

From my perspective, I do feel that soap storylines have a tendency to exaggerate real life. This could lead to unrealistic expectations.

The way in which stories are presented show issues developing rapidly and being solved quickly in order to keep the audience interested.

Yet in real life you have to factor in issues such as the response time to a referral.

However, television does give people a story to potentially relate to allowing for conversation and open debate.

These may in turn highlight a realisation that they are in need of support.

Drug and alcohol worker (wishes to remain anonymous)

I do think that using a drug storyline such as this one is beneficial.

It is important to give a well-rounded view point though because I don't think you can just say there is a drug issue in society, it’s also an issue on an individual level for people.

Plus the storyline emphasises an intrinsic link to offending behaviour and drugs; I think there is a strong correlation, but again it's only a correlation and not a causation.

Although, the glamorisation of drug use would be detrimental to society, we have to also realise that the demonisation of those who use them is also damaging.

Natasha Reeder, Home Group client, Gloucester.

Sometimes some storylines do not seem believable to me.

Some seem over dramatic and people act in a way I don’t think they would act in real life, like with the murder of Callum which I think went too far.

I think that most people learn from their own life experiences rather than learning from TV.

I do believe there is a real drug issue in our society though and maybe TV can help highlight that.

They have to be careful not to give people the wrong ideas though.

Natalie Taylorson, support coordinator, Home Group ABS Services Gloucestershire

For me personally the most revealing plot is the one of Bethany Platt, a 15 year old who is groomed then manipulated by Callum to run drugs for him; eventually getting used in a black mail plot to win custody of his son Max.

All the aspects of this storyline ring important alarm bells.

I work with many vulnerable clients who have been victims of controlling relationships that have had huge impacts on their emotional wellbeing and safety.

This month for the first time ever a new clause has been passed that finally acknowledges this type of abuse.

The Serious Crimes Act 2015, Clause 76: Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship.

It has loop holes that don’t fully protect everyone just yet. Like the storyline, it may not be perfect, but it is addressing serious and very real issues.