Heroin: Where’s the Epidemic

Heroin: Where’s the Epidemic

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Paper 1: "Heroin: Where’s the Epidemic" Early in 2014, the tragic death of Academy Award-winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, was followed by an enormous amount of media attention to an alleged “epidemic” of heroin use in the U.S.  Headlines like this appeared in newspapers nationwide and on major websites:  • “Hoffman Death Puts Focus on Heroin’s Comeback,” USA Today • “Hoffman’s Death Highlights U.S. Spike in Heroin Use,” Washington Times • “Philip Seymour Hoffman Death Spotlights Heroin Epidemic,” Huffington Post • “Hoffman’s Death Highlights Growing Heroin Epidemic,” US News However, most of these articles provide little or nothing in the way of actual empirical evidence of the “comeback,” “spike,” or “epidemic” from national surveys of drug use, such as Monitoring the Future (MTF) or the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  Occasionally, an article will mention a selective finding based on one or two years of data, but nowhere can one find systematic evidence of steep, upward trends or spikes in heroin use based on longitudinal evidence from MTF and NSDUH.  So, we might ask, where’s the heroin epidemic?  Is it real or has it been fabricated by the mass media in response to the “horror story” of Hoffman’s death?  Your assignment in Paper 1 is to evaluate media claims about an“epidemic” of heroin use with empirical evidence from MTF and/orNSDUH.  First, I want you to set up your analysis by describing some of the claims about the “heroin epidemic” in various news outlets, like those I have listed above.  Second, use the data sources I list below to examine those claims critically.  Are claims about trends in heroin use in the news media misleading, selective or distorted or are they accurate and consistent with the empirical data?  Thus, your paper will consist of two parts:  (1) a description of claims about this “growing epidemic” in the media and (2) an empirical analysis of the validity of those claims using data from MTF and/or NSDUH. Here are the resources I want you to use in your analysis: MTF:  The MTF website  contains a very useful report titled 2014 Overview: Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use.,which includes detailed tables on prevalence rates for heroin and other drugs from 1991 to 2014.  See pp. 28-29 of that report for a summary of findings and graphics on heroin use.  You can also find a relevant graphic on the trend in heroin prevalence for high school seniors in the MTF surveys from 1975 to 2013 in the Online Review, Unit 4 Lectures, Part 3.  NSDUH:  By far the most important source of evidence on national trends in heroin use among teenagers and adults are the population estimates from the 2002-2014 NSDUH surveys:  Behavioral Trends in the United States:  Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health In addition to these two sources, you may also use other legitimate sources of evidence (such as CDC reports or articles from professional journals).  However, be sure to cite and include in your list of references any material you use in your paper.  See the ASA guidelines in the Bulletin Board for instructions and examples of proper style for quotations,citations, and references.

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