Normalizing Addiction Through Marketing

Addiction is a harmful disorder that plagues every society on earth. In North America, a greater awareness is being brought to the subject of addiction and more and more people are receiving the treatment they need and the respect their condition calls for. However, there is another element of North American society that is working against healthy perceptions of addiction: marketing. Every medium that can support advertising depicts excessive consumption of addictive substances and activities. Why? Because the marketing world has no respect for the seriousness of addiction and are willing to profit from it instead.

Marketers do not simply sell an addictive product or activity. They sell the image that goes along with it. They portray alcohol consumption as nothing but a great time, smoking as a nod toward how cool a person is and sex as a romantic high with no side effects. Most of us are aware that these images are a misrepresentation. While they are correct part of the time, they in no way represent the hangovers, diseases and feelings of lowness that come with overusing these substances and activities. Instead, the models and aesthetics in the ad show images of pure bliss, frozen in time. They portray the substance or activity as common, rewarding and something that everyone needs to achieve.

The problem with this, of course, is that addicts see these advertisements and their struggle is enhanced. It leads people viewing the advertisement to believe the substance or activity could not possibly be harmful if it is so mainstream and desirable. This makes light of a situation that can become fatally serious. Addictive substances and activities have a light side and a dark side, as well as a historically large effect on those who use them, yet only the light side is advertised, creating a false sense of security within the person who experiments with the substance or activity. The lack of concern the marketing industry has shown for the way it misrepresents addictive substances and behaviors is alarming.

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