The way in which a person who uses AOD is described or portrayed can have an impact on an individual’s self-esteem, as well as shape community perceptions.
Inaccurate or alarmist portrayals of AOD in the media can lead to the stigmatisation and marginalisation of people impacted by alcohol and other drugs, and their families. People who experience stigma are less likely to seek appropriate help in a timely manner.
When communicating about someone who uses AOD it is helpful to remember:
- Characterising a person by their AOD use is unhelpful and stigmatising.
- Negative representation of people who use AOD can lead to further stigma and reduce help-seeking.
- Using person-centred language, for example instead of referring to someone has a “cannabis user” describe the person as “a person who uses cannabis.”
- When communicating about someone who has broken the law in a drug related crime, ensure information is factual, avoiding sensationalist content.
- Be sensitive in understanding, that the way a person who uses AOD is portrayed, can potentially have an impact on their life, including high-profile people and celebrities.
- Where possible, remind the audience that you can receive treatment for a drug disorder and make a full recovery from the substance.
- Portraying AOD dependence as a treatable condition may contribute to improved understanding and reduced stigma among the general public, who are accustomed to unhelpful stereotypical media portrayals.