Background: As one of the forms of media and art most consumed in the world, Oscar-nominated movies should have their drug use representation monitored because of possibly influencing but also reflecting society’s behavior.
Objective: To investigate drug use representation in scenes from movies nominated for the Academy Awards (Oscar) from 2008-2011, through media content analysis.
Methods: 437 scenes from Oscar-nominated movies (best film, best actor and best actress categories) showing drug consumption and/or its effects were assessed. Each drug represented and identified in a given scene (i.e., drug use incident) was counted as a unit for the present study (n = 515). Survey settings were used to control for over- or under-estimation of the prevalence of a variable in a given year or movie.
Results: All the Oscar-nominated movies portrayed at least one scene of drug use. There was a massive predominance of alcohol and tobacco in movies, with a high use among men who also use drugs, habitually or occasionally, but related to stress/tension, predominantly at home. However, there was a significant progressive increase in the use of drugs other than alcohol and tobacco, multiple drugs, and by women.
Conclusion: These findings echo epidemiological studies on substance use in western countries, an overall trend towards greater home drug use representation and gender convergence since 1970, which increased since 2000. Monitoring drug use representation in Oscar-nominated movies may represent an important public health tool.