Analysis of print news media framing of ketamine treatment in the United States and Canada from 2000 to 2015

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Abstract

Objectives There are multifaceted views on the use of ketamine, a potentially addictive substance, to treat mental health problems. The past 15 years have seen growing media coverage of ketamine for medical and other purposes. This study examined the print news media coverage of medical and other uses of ketamine in North America to determine orientations and trends over time. Methods Print newspaper coverage of ketamine from 2000 to 2015 was reviewed, resulting in 43 print news articles from 28 North American newspapers. A 55-item structured coding instrument was applied to assess news reports of ketamine. Items captured negative and positive aspects, therapeutic use of ketamine, and adverse side effects. Chi-squares tested for changes in trends over time. Results In the 15-year reviewed period, the three most frequent themes related to ketamine were: abuse (68.2%), legal status (34.1%), and clinical use in anesthesia (31.8%). There was significant change in trends during two periods (2000-2007 and 2008-2015). In 2008-2015, print news media articles were significantly more likely to encourage clinical use of ketamine to treat depression (p = 0.002), to treat treatment resistant depression (p = 0.043), and to claim that ketamine is more effective than conventional antidepressants (p = 0.043). Conclusions Our review found consistent positive changes in the portrayals of ketamine by the print news media as a therapeutic antidepressant that mirror the recent scientific publications. These changes in news media reporting might influence the popularity of ketamine use to treat clinical depression. Guidance is required for journalists on objective reporting of medical research findings, including limitations of current research evidence and potential risks of ketamine.

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Zhang, M. W. B., Hong, Y. X., Husain, S. F., Harris, K. M., & Ho, R. C. M. (2017). Analysis of print news media framing of ketamine treatment in the United States and Canada from 2000 to 2015. PLoS ONE, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173202

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