Meth Mouth, White Trash, and the Pseudo-Racialization of Methamphetamine Use in the U.S.

Jeffery Chaichana Peterson, Aline Gubrium, Alice Fiddian-Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Drug scares have historically been created for a range of purposes and with a variety of effects in the United States. Moral panics evoked by these drug scares either support or challenge dominant American ideas about race, economics, and society. In the present study, we examined newspaper accounts of methamphetamine use in the Inland Pacific Northwest of the United States in an effort to understand how the “reality” of the “meth epidemic” is socially constructed in a “meth hotspot,” and reflect upon the ways that the discourse of Whiteness intersects with this construction. For our analysis, we are cognizant of the “slipperiness” of the logic of Whiteness as a concept, and the ways that an alternative logic is articulated–one that strategically embraces or distances White drug users to support notions of White dominance. We focus on the possibility that individual meth users could then be portrayed pseudo-racially as “White trash,” and thus rendered outside the logic of White racial order. Our findings center on two main themes: (1) the use of fear in the construction of the meth drug scare through the sensationalization of meth, its anthropomorphization, and the depiction of the threat of the White drug user; and (2) how the logic of Whiteness is discursively reconciled within this construction. Given current mediated discourses about drug use and health in the United States that center on the emergence of the White drug user as the face of the opioid crisis, we are well served to carefully consider the recent historical precedence of the “meth epidemic” in which the public was faced with reconciling their views about drug use and the intersection of race, class, and mainstream American identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1173-1182
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2019


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