Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Joshua Hanan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christina Foust

Third Advisor

Armond Towns

Fourth Advisor

Debora Ortega


Heroin, Prison-industrial complex, Race and crime, War on drugs, Whiteness, White supremacy


America's war on drugs is a failed experiment that has caused more damage than it will ever prevent. From its original design to its contemporary manifestations, the war on drugs is a conflict that remains firmly rooted in white supremacy. In contemporary Western societies, the rhetoric of both political leaders and mass-mediated narratives becomes the raw material of subjective reality. Since the war on drugs began nearly a century ago, the spectacle of mass media has been consistently utilized by white political elites as a vehicle of misinformation - as a well-oiled machine for spreading the false social narrative that drugs are dangerous and deadly, that drug dealers and users are infectious and criminal, and that drug use should be punished. From newspapers to sitcoms to commercials to blockbuster films, these narratives also work to associate drug use with crime and race in ways that reinforce racist stereotypes often used in the service of white supremacy. A century into the war on drugs, American prisons are packed with people of color, many working full-time jobs for little or no wages while lacking the most basic of human necessities, all because drug possession and use are socially constructed as dangerous and criminal. Once released from prison, the convicted drug criminal faces life-long barriers to legitimacy. The drug addict is especially at risk, forced to live in the crevices of society and damned to the dangers of the criminal underworld. The war on drugs isn't responsible for saving the lives of addicts or helping drug dealers find more lucrative (and legal) employment. The war on drugs is a catalyst of mass incarceration, a threat to public health, and a guaranteed source of income to underworld organizations.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Ben Steven Boyce


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

214 p.


Communication, Criminology, Public health