Media reports of heroin overdose spates: public health messages, moral panics or risk advertisements?

Miller, Peter G. 2007, Media reports of heroin overdose spates: public health messages, moral panics or risk advertisements?, Critical Public Health, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 113-121, doi: 10.1080/09581590601045220.

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Title Media reports of heroin overdose spates: public health messages, moral panics or risk advertisements?
Author(s) Miller, Peter G.ORCID iD for Miller, Peter G.
Journal name Critical Public Health
Volume number 17
Issue number 2
Start page 113
End page 121
Total pages 9
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication Abingdon, England
Publication date 2007
ISSN 0958-1596
Summary This article reports on an investigation of the public health utility of media messages concerning spates (temporal clusters) of heroin-related overdose (HOD) from the perspective of some injecting drug users (IDUs). In-depth qualitative interviews were carried out with a convenience sample of 60 IDUs, in the setting of two Needle and Syringe Programs in an Australian regional city (Geelong) between April and May 2000. Very few interviewees reported that they had personally experienced a spate of overdoses. None of the interviewees reported communicating the existence of a killer batch to other IDUs. No interviewees reported having changed either their injecting practices or the amount of heroin they used following such a media alert. Indeed, a substantial minority of the interviewees reported seeking out these stronger batches and participant narratives illustrate that, for a substantial group of interviewees, the media reporting of a hypothetical 'killer batch' of heroin may have implications for their drug-seeking and health-related behaviour. It was found that the accuracy of information available to IDUs is mixed and that the flow of information within this social network was slow. Findings demonstrate that media reporting of killer batches of heroin has little value as a public health strategy and provide an example of how some activities that are proposed as public health measures may in fact have the opposite effect.
Language eng
DOI 10.1080/09581590601045220
Field of Research 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
111711 Health Information Systems (incl Surveillance)
Socio Economic Objective 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2007, Taylor & Francis
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Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Health
School of Psychology
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