DOI: 10.1177/09636625231190743 ISSN:

Media framings of the role of genomics in “addiction” in the United States from 2015 to 2019: Individualized risk, biomedical expertise, and the limits of destigmatization

Katherine Hendy
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Communication

News coverage of the opioid epidemic is a useful site for examining genomic framings of addiction. Qualitative analysis of 139 articles published in the United States from 2015 to 2019 discussing genomics, addiction, and the opioid epidemic found an emphasis on both a postgenomic framing in which genetics operates in relation to social and environmental factors, and a molecularized understanding of addiction which highlighted the role of neurobiology and individual-level genetic risk. Discussions of genetics were often intertwined with calls for a biomedicalized approach that frames addiction as a chronic disease in need of medication, and thus under the purview of medical experts. Finally, while genomic discourses were invoked to reduce stigma, genomics was at times used to describe addicts as biologically distinct from other people, reflecting the possibility that genetics—even in the postgenomic context—can be used to promote a biologically essentialized understanding of people with addiction.

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