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Neo-liberal discourse of substance use in the UK reality TV show, The Jeremy Kyle Show

Atkinson, Amanda Marie; Sumnall, Harry

Año: 2020

This article presents findings of a content and thematic analysis of representations of substance use and users in the UK Reality Television programme, The Jeremy Kyle Show. It provides evidence that substance use and users were problematised through the process of ´othering´ which contributed to a reductionist drugs discourse. We argue that such discourse can be understood within the wider socio-economic political context of neoliberalism. Four intertwined themes revealed underlying neo-liberal notions that reduced substance use and users to a number of characteristics and associated issues, and provided a narrow and skewed representation of use and users. Through framing substance use as a rational choice, users were held fully responsible and blamed for their substance use, resulting problems, and failure of treatment. Substance use was associated with unemployment and dependency on state welfare, with those claiming welfare being deemed accountable for their lack of employment and shamed for their failure to meet the neoliberal notion of the productive citizen. Structural causes of substance use and inequality were silenced, and an emphasis on individual responsibility prioritised, which may lead to the reinforcement of stigma, and societal and institutional interventions being overlooked. Users were also encouraged to repair a ´lost´ sense of self through abstinence within private inpatient treatment, endorsing the neo-liberal notion of private health care and prioritising abstinence-based responses and individual responsibility in treatment success. Implications for public perceptions of substance use, users and suitable responses, and substance users´ perceptions of themselves, are considered.

Tipo documento:





15 - 26



Palabras clave:

Addiction; substance use; media; reality television; neoliberalism


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