First Advisor

Leo Beletsky

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Public Health Studies: Community Health Promotion and University Honors


Health Studies




Drugs -- Overdose -- United States -- Public opinion, United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Public opinion, Common fallacies, Drugs and mass media, Drug traffic -- Press coverage, Border stations -- United States, Mass media and public opinion -- United States




Background: The realms of drug policy and immigration policy have long been fueled by misinformation, where sensationalism and panics help shore up political support. Most recently, the "border crisis" has been invoked to explain the "overdose crisis" in mass media narratives. Although the increase in migration is being blamed for illicit drug flows, drug importation occurs primarily through legal points-of-entry. The extent and excess visibility of false narratives linking overdose to migration in mainstream media is unknown.

Methods: We used the Media Cloud ecosystem to compile and characterize mainstream media content published between June 2021 and July 2021 regarding the migration on the southwest border and how it relates to illicit drug flows.

Key Results: We identified 102 relevant articles. In this sample, 80% of articles articulated misinformation. Only two articles were corrective by accurately asserting that illicit drugs flow primarily through legal points-of-entry.

Conclusion: Misinformation regarding drugs and the border have proliferated in mass media, where corrective narratives are sparse. Excess visibility of misinformation on causes of key societal challenges drives misguided public policy and inhibits successful responses to public health crises.


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An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in University Honors and Public Health: Community Promotion.

Persistent Identifier