Newspapers and magazines, if they picked up the story, could spread a large amount of information very rapidly, and whether this information was accurate or not it would still cause problems for the drug company that marketed the particular drug (Hilgartner & Bosk, 1988).
The media, however, is not the only problem where panic resulting from a drug is concerned. Attorneys could also add to the concern by advertising for lawsuits regarding a specific drug. Some of this is already seen with Paxil and other antidepressants, but even a new drug could easily be the object of paranoia if enough attorneys felt that class actions lawsuits were necessary to get the attention of individuals within the medical community. This much of an uproar would also get the attention of the media which would then become involved through the aforementioned news programs and other venues.
If one wanted to generate public fear for a new drug, one would first have to show that there was danger - either real or imagined - in that particular medication (Reinarman & Levine, 1989). Once this was done, the story and/or the information would have to be disseminated to many different media outlets and any other individuals or companies that would work to spread the word without stopping to effectively determine whether the information was completely and technically accurate or whether it was only created by someone that wanted to worry and concern others. This information would also have to be spread very thoroughly and very quickly simply because it could therefore spread very far before anyone proved it untrue if it actually was untrue (Levine & Reinarman, 1988). Without this, a story like that would die out rapidly and nothing would come of it except for a few upset people and one or two days of concern (Goode, 1990).
Previous panic episodes about prescription and non-prescription medications have generally been short-lived in this country, but...
Generally, the media and the drug companies have done a good job of making individuals feel as ease, however, and the panic has quickly subsided. Done properly, however, the panic over a prescription or non-prescription drug that is dangerous or potentially dangerous could spiral up very quickly and not subside as easily as it has in the past. It would have to be a drug, however, that many, many people are taking, or there would be no real point in attempting to generate a panic because there would not be enough people taking the drug to frighten a large portion of the population (Goode, 1990).
The drug, if it were a prescription drug, would have to be a medication that is taken for one of the most common and well-known ailments, such as heart disease or diabetes. If the drug was a non-prescription drug then it would have to be a pain reliever or a cold remedy most likely - something so very common that millions of people would be taking it for problems that they or their doctor diagnosed them with. In sum, drug panic in this country could be quite easily accomplished, but the media would have to be the largest help when it came to who was going to spread the word and frighten the people. There is no other realistic way to alarm that many people that quickly without the help of the media and the 'horror stories' that seem so popular on the nightly news.
Goode, Erich. (19900. "The American drug panic of the 1980s: social construction or objective threat?" The International 3 rournal of the Addictions, 25(9): 1083-98
Haines, Herbert H. (1979). "Cognitive claims-making, enclosure, and the depoliticization of social problems." The Sociological Quarterly, 20 (Winter): 119-30
Hilgartner, Stephen, & Bosk, Charles L. (1988). "The rise and fall of social problems: a public arenas model." American Journal of Sociology, 94 (July): 53-78
Levine, Harry G. & Reinarman, Craig. (1988). "The politics of America's latest drug scare." In R. Curry (ed.), Freedom at Risk: Secrecy, Censorship, and Repression in the 1980s. Philadelphia. Temple University Press, pp. 251-8
Reinarman, Craig, & Levine, Harry G. (1989). "The crack attack: politics and media in America's latest drug scare." In Joel…
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