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Alcohol: the media are in denial

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 08 September 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:580
  1. Colin Brewer, medical director, the Stapleford Centre
  1. London

    Journalists hate to admit that drink is a drug

    When the BMJ publishes a study confirming that we have a cure for AIDS, it will presumably be printed in the same restrained typeface that will report, a few pages later, some comparatively unsexy developments—improvements in grommet technology, perhaps, or changes in the epidemiology of stroke. The trouble with newspapers is that they have a headline mentality. To this end, medical journalists spend a lot of time manufacturing anxiety, sometimes with unfortunate consequences. For example, they frighten women with stories about the side effects of oral contraceptives, with the result that women stop the pill and suffer the side effects of pregnancy instead. You might think the press would enjoy frightening the public by hyping the side effects of alcohol, but instead the media trumpet makes a curiously uncertain sound.

    Like the drinks industry, journalists seem to have a slight hangup about admitting that alcohol, …

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