Talking XTC

Drug discourse in post-war Dutch newspaper and radio debates
Cover design: Guy Vording
Date 2022
Authors Berrie van der Molen
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Talking XTC describes how ecstasy discourse originated and developed in Dutch newspaper and radio debates between 1985 and 2006. The dissertation introduces and uses the “leveled approach,” a methodological approach with which digital data archives containing audiovisual heritage can be structurally searched and analysed. This was previously only possible for digital data archives with printed heritage, such as newspapers.

Ecstasy, the street name for pills containing MDMA, became popular in the Netherlands in the late 1980s. The drug was included as a hard drug under the Dutch Opium Act in 1988, but continued to be popular, especially at so-called acid house parties. Talking XTC shows how ecstasy’s reputation in media debates was not always compatible with the frameworks of drug regulation: in the 1990s ecstasy was mainly regarded as a soft drug, while the substance was a hard drug according to the law. Tendencies to give the substance a more legitimate place in the nightlife scene coexisted with tendencies to label the substance as problematic and dangerous, and an increasingly strong notoriety as a criminal commodity.

The dynamics in this process of meaning making were different in the newspaper and radio debates. In the newspapers, the different perspectives were expressed in separate articles, while the perspectives in the radio debates were reflected in discussion items with stakeholders who disagreed with each other. The studies suggest that ecstasy use was becoming less accepted and more condemned over the course of the period of study.


Berrie van der Molen was interviewed about this research project for online NPO platform Brandpunt+ (16 February 2022)

Imperative of Regulation