The role of researchers and media in responding to drug panics


The role of researchers and media in responding to drug panics

19 January 2023

From K2 and bath salts to crack pipes to rainbow fentanyl, drug policy reformers are continually combating drug panics. While the particular subject of drug scares change, key features remain the same from panic to panic: exaggerated fears about a new substance or drug use modality, disregard for research, and association of the subject with a particular (often marginalised) group. Dr. Craig Reinarman will explain how, historically, drug panics have been deployed to both individualise structural problems and increase stigma towards and criminalisation of people who use drugs. Tana Geneva will discuss the media’s role in amplifying drug scares and the media’s potential to correct misinformation. We will also discuss the role of drug researchers in responding to drug panics.


  • Dr. Craig Reinarman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. He is the co-author of Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice.
  • Tana Ganeva is a reporter covering criminal justice, drug policy, immigration, and politics. She's written for the Washington Post,, Glamour, Gothamist, Vice, the Appeal, Teen Vogue, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Date26 January 2023


Related Profiles

  • Craig Reinarman
  • Tana Ganeva