The rate of overdoses related to prescription painkillers and other opioids within the U.S has increased over the past two decades; where an average of 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day.1 The term ‘opioid’ is becoming an everyday term heard on a multitude of media platforms. It is seen and heard on the news, social media, and in our music on a regular basis. Blame for this epidemic is being placed on many different institutions including the government and pharmaceutical companies. But the question is how is the media’s influence affecting our communities and perceptions?

Stigma is a topic of discussion that is commonly associated with the opioid epidemic. The news outlets tend to paint a picture of opioid abusers and make it hard for individuals suffering to seek out help. One article stated that, “more that 80% of stories included a depiction of a single opioid abuser, with two-thirds painting a portrait of a person involved in a criminal activity”.4 This accusation makes it difficult for the public to see that this epidemic is affecting every population and not just convicted criminals.

Social media is known to be a source for updating users on news, allowing for open discussion, and for talking about observations and feelings. One study was able to conclude that the opioid epidemic is talked about online in a variety of topics, including ‘how to abuse opioids’. This was followed by the social impact of opioid abuse and then opioid withdrawal. It also concluded that anonymous accounts are used most for one-time posting which may contain sensitive information specific to the user.3 This indicated that there is still a sense of shame and stigma surrounding opioid use.

Music is another media outlet that has the ability to connect topics to a wide range of people. It can serve as an outlet for people to escape their world. But substance use and abuse can be seen through many genres. A 30 year study was able to conclude that the mention of opioid drugs and medications emerged in the late 1990s. Since then, 57.1% of opioid-referencing songs mention opioid medication and not heroin or street slang2. As more and more lyrics contain the use of opioids the question remains; how is this affecting our youth?

Media is influential and all need to be careful and pay attention to how it affects them. Parents should continue to monitor what your child is reading, watching, and/or listening too. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months.


1. AAMC. (2019). Responding to the opioids epidemic through education, Association of American Medical Colleges. 14 May 2019.

2. Hamba, C., Hanba, D., (2018). Opioid drug prevalence in top 40’s music: a 30 year review.  The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. September 2018, 31(5) 761-767.

 3. Pandrekar, S., Chen, X., Gopalkrishna, G., Srivastava, A., Saltz, M., Saltz, J., & Wang, F. (2018). Social Media Based Analysis of Opioid Epidemic Using Reddit. AMIA. Annual Symposium proceedings. AMIA Symposium, December 2018, 867–876.

4. Pharmacy times. (2016). How the media frames opioid abuse. Pharmacy Times. 10 January 2016.