Charities create toolkit for journalists to responsibly report on alcohol and drugs

View the toolkit here.

The ‘Reporting of Substance Toolkit’ is an online resource for journalists and editors who are looking to report on alcohol and drugs with dignity and respect.

The toolkit encourages journalists to follow key recommendations such as appropriate imagery and avoiding stigmatising language such as ‘user’ and ‘addict’.

There is also the recommendation of including support information in every article that reports on alcohol and drugs – a recommendation that is asking for the same treatment mental health articles receive where helpline numbers are included for people who may be in a similar situation.

Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs and Adfam have created the toolkit together with the support of a partnership working group with a family member, a person in recovery, a journalist, Drink and Drug News and Alcohol Health Alliance UK.

The media can play a huge role in ending the stigma surrounding alcohol and drug use, but we continue to see reports that include stigmatising language and imagery such as drug paraphernalia, hidden faces, broken bottles and images depicting people in vulnerable situations.

A family member who has experience of being interviewed by journalists and sharing her story as a mum supporting her daughters with their recovery says: ‘…these showing needles, spoons and paraphernalia…that’s what really upsets me. To see that they’ve never moved away from that over the years…that’s the first thing they put up. Behind the story of that paraphernalia is always very sad, it’s very upsetting to people to see how addiction affects our loved ones and the family…but before people have got to that bit of the story, they’ve judged it already.’

By following the recommendations and reporting respectfully, we can all play our role in ending stigma.

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families said:

‘We’ve seen fantastic progress over the years around reporting of mental health issues, including support information being included at the end of every article, stigmatising language decreasing, and the use of positive and educational images. We want to see the same progressive approach in the reporting of alcohol and drug issues. We still see too many pictures of broken bottles and needles, rather than images showing the human side of these stories. We know the media can play a huge part in sharing the voices and experiences of family members and in encouraging people into recovery. We hope this toolkit will help make the changes in the media that families want to see.’

Vivienne Evans, Chief Executive of Adfam said:

‘We are committed to ending the prejudice which surrounds the families of people with a drug or alcohol dependency. This toolkit works towards challenging the stigma that those struggling with drugs and alcohol, and their families and friends, often face. Journalism has a key role to play here, and we have produced this toolkit in collaboration with journalists who want to see more respectful reporting on alcohol and drugs across the board.’

The Reporting of Substance toolkit is available online at

We use cookies. By browsing our site you agree to our use of cookies.