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“Virtually a drug scare: Mephedrone and the impact of the Internet on drug news transmission”.
Int J Drug Policy. 2012 Feb 20;.
BACKGROUND: On the 16th April 2010 the drug mephedrone was outlawed in the UK. This followed news media reports of deaths linked to the drug. In many respects the mephedrone scare represented a familiar pattern of drug framing and legislative reaction. However, the mephedrone scare took place in the era of online news transmission.
METHODS: To quantify the mephedrone scare the Google Internet search-engine's Trends and News applications were monitored from when the first death was attributed to the drug until 1 year after it was banned.
RESULTS: Web interest in buying mephedrone peaked when online news stories reported deaths from the drug. Eighteen alleged mephedrone deaths were identified from online news. The fatalities which received the most Internet traffic subsequently proved false-alarms. Online interactive media widened access to alternative explanations of these alleged mephedrone deaths.
CONCLUSIONS: It is contended that the advent of the Internet accelerated and inflated the mephedrone scare, but also that online media allowed [web] user-generated information transmission, rather than simple dissemination by news media to audience, fostering competing discourses to stock drug scare themes as they emerged.