Drug use in popular movies

A recent study by the Institute of Child Health Research at Westmead Hospital in Sydney analysed the portrayal of illicit drug use in the top 200 movies of the last 20 years.

Cannabis use was depicted in 8 per cent of the popular movies.

Non injected illicit drug use was included in a further 7 per cent of the popular movies.

There were no episodes of injected drug use.

In every case of illicit drug use the portrayal of the use was seen in a positive way.

In every case of illicit drug use there was no portrayal of any negative consequences from using the drugs.

The social norm of illicit drug use being presented was of concern given the HIV and illicit drug pandemics.

Animated, G rated and PG rated movies were excluded from the study.

(Source: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2005; 98, 464-470)


Popular culture of normalising illicit drug use without consequences is very concerning given that these 200 movies are the most popular and would be seen by many Australians.

By not presenting the harm caused by illicit drugs these popular movies do not convey the truth about the harm of illicit drug use.

Illicit drugs are illegal because they are dangerous.

Popular movies are therefore undermining our efforts to reduce supply of illicit drugs and are promoting drug use leading to an increase in illicit drug users.