Grassroots Moral Panics

Throughout the 20th century, illicit drug use has been subject to cycling periods of intense public awareness and alarm and those of relative indifference. The latter half of the last century in particular was marked by periods when the public, the media, or law makers focused on a specific drug that encapsulated the perceived drug problem more generally.

When a particular drug is singled out for public scrutiny and concern, it may be the result of a moral panic, arising from one of three levels of society, or combination of them—grassroots or public, interest or activist groups, or the elite. A conceptual term derived from sociology, a grassroots moral panic describes a form of collective behavior marked by suddenly increased concern and antagonism in a large ...

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