By: Jenny E. Ostergren, Molly J. Dingel, Jennifer B. McCormick & Barbara A. Koenig
Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives
March 25, 2015
The cost of addiction in the United States, in combination with a host of new tools and techniques, has fueled an explosion of genetic research on addiction. Because the media has the capacity to reflect and influence public perception, there is a need to examine how treatments and preventive approaches projected to emerge from addiction genetic research are presented to the public. The authors conducted a textual analysis of 145 news articles reporting on genetic research on addiction from popular print media in the United States and from popular news and medical internet sites. In articles that report on prevention, the media emphasize vaccine development and identifying individuals at genetic risk through population screening. Articles that emphasize treatment often promote current pharmaceutical solutions and highlight the possibility of tailoring treatments to specific genetic variants. The authors raise concerns about the tendency of this coverage to focus on the benefits of pharmaceutical treatments and genetic-based approaches to prevention while neglecting or downplaying potential risks and ethical issues. This analysis suggests a need for more balanced, evidence-based media reporting on the potential outcomes of genetic research.