Using mainstream media communication theories, this article outlines different mechanisms by which media can impact on public perceptions of drugs and crime. The media can set the agenda and define
public interest; frame issues through selection and salience; indirectly shape individual and community attitudes towards risk and norms; and feed into political debate and decision making. We demonstrate
how the media can fulfill each of these roles by examining the so-called Miaow Miaow (Mephedrone) legal high ‘epidemic’, as reported in the United Kingdom news media from 2009-2010. In doing so we illustrate that by contributing to hysteria, exerting pressure for policy change and increasing curiosity in drug use, the media can have a potentially powerful impact on demand for drugs and public perceptions of illicit drugs and drugs policy.