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. Instead use person-centred language. For example, instead of referring to someone as a ‘cannabis user’ describe the person as ‘a person who uses cannabis’.
- Negative representation of people who use AOD can lead to further stigma and reduce help-seeking.
- When communicating about a person who uses drugs and who has broken the law, or about a drug-related crime, ensure that the information conveyed is factual and accurate and that sensationalist content is omitted.
- Be sensitive and remember that the way in which a person who uses AOD is portrayed can potentially have an impact on their life and the lives of their families and significant others. This includes high-profile individuals and celebrities.
- Where possible, remind the audience that the subject is not only a person who uses drugs, but someone who has other traits. Most people who use AOD function well as parents, partners, participants in the workforce and members of their community.
- 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.
Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are widely portrayed in Australian media and communications. There are ways of reporting and communicating about alcohol and other drugs which can be stigmatising or discriminatory and result in moral panic.
When reporting or communicating about AOD, avoid:
- exaggerating facts and statistics associated with alcohol and other drugs
- pro-alcohol media reporting, which can result in initiation or increased use of alcohol and other drugs
- reporting stereotypical descriptions of AOD use or stigmatising images e.g. Needles
- reporting on specific names of a drug, in drug related deaths.