16/07/17: Much ado in New Zealand about drug policy in the media during July: Russell Brown, a New Zealand journalist, provides a comprehensive overview of significant media inaccuracies during the 2017 NZ Drug Law Reform Symposium.
23/06/17: Zero Tolerance crackdowns and Harm Minimisation have mutually exclusive goals: Stephanie Tzanetis from Dancewize provides a comprehensive critique of the Herald Sun’s ‘exclusive story’ regarding speculation that the Victorian government will take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach at festivals which would allow police new search powers. She highlights the legal aspects of how such a change in law might be implemented and how this is incongruous with Australia’s Harm Minimisation policy
04/05/17: Telegraph exploits man and exposes Australia’s failed and futile drug policy: Dr Alex Wodak criticises the Daily Telegraph for their front page story which contained a large photo of a man injecting himself in the Sydney CBD. Dr Wodak highlights how such media coverage further stigmatises and already marginalised population and calls for for more Medically Supervised Injecting Rooms.
16/04/17: What is ‘success’ in drug rehab? Programs need more than just anecdotes to prove they work: Dr Bright & Dr Lee comment an an episode of Australian Story that portrayed a wonderful story of redemption, with a person who was deeply involved in drugs establishing a private rehabilitation centre. As the story did not interview any AOD treatment experts, it served as an advertorial for the clinic. Bright & Lee note that the clinic did not appear to be based on best practice and that without any government regulation there is no monitoring of private services. This is despite peak bodies such as VAADA – The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association lobbying the government to implement accreditation processes and monitoring of non-state funded services that are similar to those quality assurance standards expected by government funded services.
12/04/17: ‘Record drug seizure’ headlines highlight uncritical and often sensationalised media reporting: Dr Martin & Dr Bright highlight the perils of uncritical reporting of big drug seizures. Failure to report on wholesale prices and overestimates of the impact on the local markets have not been considered by most media outlets, apart from The Age – theage.com.au who quoted Sam from VAADA – The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association. They highlight the need for journalists to not just uncritically cite official media releases about Alcohol & Other Drugs (AODs), but ask questions. While there is some great investigative journalists, many seem to switch off when it is a story about AODs: Where did you get this figure of $900 million? How will it have an impact on the street availability and price of methamphetamine? Will this deter others importing methamphetamine? Why is the government so focused on generating news about methamphetamine when there is significantly more harm in the community from alcohol? Could this latest news be a way of distracting the public from other issues the government is facing?
06/04/17: Wastewater drug monitoring: Never let the evidence get in the way of a good story: Laurence Alvis, CEO of UnitingCare ReGen & Dr Bright are critical of the lack of investigative journalism following the media releases from the ACIC regarding their wastewater analysis report that stated “Methylamphetamine is the most consumed illicit drug in the country”. This is clearly not true. They are also critical of the media not reporting on the limitations of wastewater analysis and why journalists did not question the political motivations behind the media releases.
21/03/17: Stigma, aggression and fear: ‘Ice Wars’ a lost opportunity: At AOD Media Watch we had several experts comment on the various problems with the ABC TV series Ice Wars. But what do people who have lived experience with methamphetamine think about the series? Here is a piece from Jay Morris, who has recovered from methamphetamine dependence
04/03/17: You’ll Never Believe why Clickbait Stories about Drugs aren’t Helpful: Karina Czaplinski & Dr Stephen Bright examine a story in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Two men dead after being ‘cooked from the inside’ in drug overdose”. While such sensationalism might work as clickbait, it at the expense of the quality and accuracy of reporting and fuels moral panic. In turn this shifts the focus away from the real issues, such as alcohol-related harms as readers are sent into a false panic about the “re-emergence of synthetic killer drugs”, which is speculative at best.
28/02/17 – How did the Daily Mail get it so wrong? The difference between sensationalist commentary and journalism: Associate Professor Caldicott notes the plethora of misinformation contained in a Daily Mail article. Everything from the title to the information contained in the article is fake news. One has to wonder where they got their information for this story – or did they simply made it up for the sake of sensationalism
26/02/17 – Overdoses at Electric Parade and White Night fuelled by dangerous new drug: A missed opportunity to provide harm reduction? Dr Bright examines an article in The Herald Sun on the recent overdoses at Electric Parade. He notes that the overdoses might have been prevented if harm reduction facilities were available onsite. Bright also suggests the language used could increase people’s curiosity about the drug and also perpetuate stigma. People who use drugs already know the risks associated with using and actively try and mitigate these harms. As such, Bright suggests that there was a missed opportunity in this article to provide harm reduction information about GHB.
22/02/17 – Fact Check: Is it not practical to conduct on-the-spot drug tests “safely and quickly”? Associate Professor David Caldicott fact checks the statements made by ABC Media quoting Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton that it’s not practical to conduct on-the-spot drug tests “safely and quickly”. Caldicott show how this statement is false in that we have the technology to conduct effective drug checking at festivals and cites evidence of the effective programs that are currently operating overseas.
20/02/17 – Fact Check: Would shortening the length of Rainbow Serpent Festival reduce harm?: Stephanie Tzanetis from Harm Reduction Victoria (Australia) critically looks at a piece published in The Age entitled: “Police want to cut length of Rainbow Serpent Festival following death of 22-year-old”. Stephanie suggests that shortening the festival might actually increase harm through increased drug driving, and more importantly, it wouldn’t have prevented the tragic death. Steph is also critical of the overstated rate of drug driving offences that were reported in the article and highlights the extensive harm reduction efforts that have been made bv festival organisers
14/02/17 – Rainbow Festival was Marred by Drugs and Violence – Really?!? Dr Bright & Dr Williams call out the hyperbole of Victoria police regarding the number of assaults that occurred at the festival and argue that if alcohol had been available at the event this number would be much higher. However, most festival goers were using Cannabis, LSD and MDMA – drugs that are less likely to be associated with violence. They conclude by stating that “The media should be more responsible in how they report on alcohol and other drugs, particularly given the consistently high rates of alcohol-related violence compared to violence linked with other drugs” and that “Clearly Rainbow Serpent Festival was not marred by violence, though by associating violence with drugs, stigma towards people who use drugs is perpetuated. Without such changes in media reporting there will continue to be limited opportunities to discuss implementing evidence-based drug policy. Rather, Australia will continue to fall behind other western nations in implementing harm reduction measures such as pill testing.”
14/02/17 – We are not at War with Ice: The Show’s Message is Overblown and Unhelpful: Professor Nicole Lee, who participated in the Ice Wars series, provides her critique of the show. She notes that there is no ice epidemic. Rather by presenting misinformation the show incites fear and moral panic, which in turn is unhelpful since it perpetuates stigma. She states “we are not at siege or at war with ice”. People who feel stigmatised as results of the moral panic created through shows like Ice Wars as less likely to access healthcare services and more likely to feel disconnected from society, which could lead to their drug use exacerbating.
13/02/17 – The ABC’s ‘Ice Wars’ Is Exploiting Vulnerable People Who use Drugs: Gino Vumbaca & Tony Trimingham are critical of the ABC series Ice Wars, noting that the program lacked any ethics. They state that interviewing a “young man and his struggle to deal with his drug and mental health problems was inexplicable. How the Blacktown Hospital’s Acute Mental Health Team could be so complicit by involving one of their clients in this way also demands an explanation.” They go on to state the the program contained significant misinformation. As such they state that they “believe there is no option but to call for the rest of the series to be halted from being broadcast if the unethical practice of identifying and exploiting people in the throes of dependence continues. We also believe that if the information provided after the first episode continues then there is also no option for the ABC other than to review the way its documentary team reports on drug issues.”
05/02/17 – Why Reporters Shouldn’t Speculate on the Cause of Drug-Related Incidents and how Pill Testing can Help: Dr Stephen Bright reports on the drug-related incident that occurred in Chapel Street in mid-January in which a number of people were hospitalised and there was at least one death. The media were quick to speculate on what was in the Ecstacy that caused the incident, which Dr Bright notes is unhelpful. The contents on the pills were determined through by concerned members of the public sending one of the Ecstacy capsules to Spain for analysis. They were found to contain NBome, 4,Fluro-Amphetamine and a small amount of MDMA; however, the police already knew as evidenced by a leaked memo. Bright argues that this information should have been made public rather than waiting 3 weeks to get results from Spain and highlights the need for pill testing
01/02/17 – A Potential Case of Amyl Nitrite Poisoning Provides an Opportunity for Harm Reduction: Associate Professor David Caldicott, Emergency Department Consultant at Calvary Hospital in the ACT, commends Hack on their reporting of harm reduction, but notes that it is important that the media not speculate a death that may or may not involve drugs due to the distress it could to relatives and loved ones grieving their loss, and craving at least certainty. However, it does provide him with an opportunity to provide great harm reduction information about Amyl
26/01/17 – Pill testing isn’t a silver bullet but it will save lives: Gino Vumbaca, President of Harm Reduction Australia, examines an option piece published in the Age by Mr Leibie that is more an advertorial for his drug testing company than an examination of the evidence for pill testing. Gino highlights how Mr Leibie uses confusion and deception rather than evidence to suggest that pill testing should not be implemented in Australia.
22/01/17 – It’s Time to get Serious about opening more Drug Consumption Rooms: Dr Alex Wodak examines a piece published in the Daily Telegraph calling for more Drug consumption Rooms. Dr Wodak appreciates that a newscorp newspaper would make such a call, noting the benefits of these facilities, though notes that the original title, which contained the word “Junkies”, and other language in the article stigmatises an already marginalised group of people.
01/11/16 – Flakka on the Gold Coast and Schoolies should be scared – or should they? Dr Bright deconstructionists the events that took place in October on the Gold Coast where a number of people fell ill and one man died after taking capsules that the media reported to contain Flakka despite no evidence to suggest this to be the case. The story explains what Flakka is, and also how other journalists were quick to pick up on this oversight by the media in jumping the gun as later analysis showed the drugs actually contained NBome. Nonetheless, an ABC journalist made a number of factor errors after this analysis and these are fact checked in the piece.
20/10/16 – Stigmatising rhetoric a prelude to Federal welfare reforms?: The CEO of Regen, Laurence Alvis, responds to a piece published in the Herald Sun that highlights how certain rhetoric can be both inflammatory and stigmatising, yet does nothing to address alcohol and other drug issues.
23/08/16 – Designer death: new killer drugs to flood local market (The Age): Dr Stephen Bright & Dr Monica Barratt provide a piece on the conversation which dispels this hysteria, stating “as far as they know, there’s no “turbo-charged version of ice on its way”, and highlight the futility of fear-based campaigns.
22/06/16 – DMT is becoming more popular in Australia (www.news.com.au): Dr Stephen Bright highlights how this story contains misinformation from experts that lack credibility, no evidence that dimethyltryptamine is more popular in Australia; though from the media reporting it may lead to people using the drug through curiosity.