Moral panic in Icelandic society: Arrival of ecstasy to Iceland

Jónas Orri Jónasson, Helgi Gunnlaugsson


The use of illegal drugs has often been shown to ignite fear and insecurity in society. When a new drug appears the media typically reports on this drug and the risk it poses. Soon after ecstasy appeared in Iceland in the 1990s its use created a major public uproar and insecurity in Icelandic society. In the article the theory of moral panic will be used to examine if the arrival of ecstasy to Iceland ignited a moral panic. Media reports on ecstasy, public reactions, interest groups and government institutions will be analysed. Discourse analysis is employed on newspaper reporting on ecstasy between 1985 and 1997 to detect signs of moral panic. The main conclusion is that evidence suggests that a moral panic existed in Iceland as described in well-known theories on the subject.


Moral panic; drug use; deviant behaviour; mass media.

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