There are ways in which AOD can be discussed and portrayed that can be helpful in raising awareness, support help-seeking behaviour and reduce usage.
When communicating about AOD it is helpful to remember:
- Conveying adverse health and social consequences associated with AOD use in a balanced and evidence-informed way can be effective in reducing or modifying AOD use.
- When reporting on increases in use or new AOD trends, include the prevalence of the drug of concern in the context of other AOD use. For example, if reporting on prevalence of crystal methamphetamine use and harms, include comparative data on the prevalence of other drug use and harms such as alcohol and tobacco. The harm of one drug does not disappear with the emergence or increased use of another drug.
- When communicating about AOD it is helpful to seek expert opinion to provide context and ensure accuracy. Experts can assist with providing context based on facts and statistics to ensure exaggeration doesn’t occur. Try to source key informants including researchers, clinicians and people with lived experience of AOD.
- Harmful AOD use is a public health issue, not a moral failing and media portrayals should reflect this.
If we can change the way alcohol and other drugs are reported in the media, we have the potential to change countless lives. Let’s allow the truth to get in the way of a good story.