How the Media Makes People Want to Do Bad Drugs

The first time I read about Modafinil, I wanted to try it. Most of the headlines describe the pill prescribed for narcolepsy, as the “Limitless drug”––giving users the superhuman ability to complete daily tasks better, faster, and more efficiently.

Modafinil is classified as a Schedule IV in the United States, and illegal to import for anyone other than the Drug Enforcement Administration. England’s the Sun called it “Brain Viagra,” and reported it also makes those who take it horny as hell. One blogger said taking the pill is like “hacking” one’s intelligence, and that “not enough” Silicon Valley executives are reaping Modafinil’s benefits. A Reddit thread details where to buy it online, and collects anecdotal experiences with the drug. And a Daily Mail piece says it’s like viagra for your brain, and also your dick––helping men to last longer during sex, and do their homework too.

Who wouldn’t want to try it? I haven’t yet. But it wouldn’t be very difficult to do so. The stories above are all you need to theoretically research, procure, and eventually pop the latest news craze in smart drugs.

My social media feeds are filled with stories and content about drugs. Most of the news, at least from mainstream media sites, employs hyperbolic, sometimes inaccurate, language to describe trends among the chemical-imbibing populace. The something-beyond-honest headlines drive clicks.


And according to Narcomania writer, Max Daly––a U.K. drugs journalist who has long offered an unfiltered, informed, mostly straightforward look into the world of psychoactive substances and the people who use them––these same scare stories actually make more people seek out the drugs billed as to be avoided. Watching the Food Network makes people want to eat. Reading and watching videos about drugs––even if the story is about overdoses––inspires people to get down. Peer pressure takes on a whole new meaning when your friends are sharing the content online.

By analyzing Google searches for “buy meow meow,” the square media-dubbed street name for the lab-fabricated stimulant mephedrone, Daly is able to link a rise in demand to specific Internet stories reporting misinformation that blames the drug for tragic teen deaths.

“It’s possible using this analysis to see how individual stories got people searching for the drug. And the news is this: The more gruesome the story, the more it makes people want to buy the culprit,” writes Daly in Vice.

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