Home » Side Event: The Media, a Key Actor in the Field of Drugs

Side Event: The Media, a Key Actor in the Field of Drugs

Organized by Canada, and Association Proyecto Hombre, Canadian Centre on Substance use and Addiction, Dianova International, The Interest Organisation for Substance Misusers and Turkish Green Crescent Society

The Media, a Key Actor in the Field of Drugs

Organized by Canada, and Association Proyecto Hombre, Canadian Centre on Substance use and Addiction, Dianova International, The Interest Organisation for Substance Misusers and Turkish Green Crescent Society

Lucia Goberna, Dianova International

‘Bringing addiction stigma to an end’ project last year – but wanted to expand it to the media. We want to use media to have a positive impact. I thank all involved in this panel.

Rebecca Jesseman, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Our focus is on stigma – stigma affects all who use drugs – and often through of something that affects everyone but not us. Health issues should be spoken of in the same way – not differently about addiction and heart disease. Language is so important. We used to be ‘Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse’ – had to change our name as it was stigmatising. Stigma can lead to shame and guilt. Can lead to less engagement and retainment in treatment. Illicit drug addiction is ranked #1 in a recent study. Words can be harmful. ‘Abuse’ implies agency, and the word elicits a negative attitude. Should use ‘substance use disorder (SUD)’. Shouldn’t use words like ‘junkie’ and ‘clean’. The media: use of ‘addict’ is often used in a stigmatising manner. Images display people who use drugs ( PWUD) as dirty people with needles in their arms. Public opinion sways decision making. Addiction affects everyone. Some of them are us. Stigma reinforces beliefs that we might not know we had. SUD is a health condition the same as cancer or diabetes. Journey to personal wellness is possible. Need to education those around us. Refer to person-first language. Use language that acknowledges the fact that people with SUD can achieve wellness. Lexicon of words: ‘addictionary’ available on our website. Also as a resource at our booth.

Kenneth Arctander, Norway

Stigmatisiation and normalisation in the media of PWUD

Norway have recommended decriminalisation. We did a review of pros and against the reform. Almost everyone agrees that we should not stigmatise PWUD – but there is debates on decriminalisation. Some worry that we sacrifice young people to help old people. Advantages of punitive processes should surpass

Debate is a development but is problematic. Recent debate on Portugal, reduced OD deaths. Not entirely true. Is it justified by the state to harm people when they aren’t harming others. In Norway when were in process of reform – recently journalist in Norway was stigmatising to PWUD. Child held sign ‘no drug abusers where I live’. There is public opinion against housing services for PWUD. Covered all over the media. Addict no longer portrayed as threat, but as dirty helpless people. Many people have pitying attitudes of PWUD, who should only be celebrated when they stop using drugs

Drug use is not socially accepted. Can’t report this way, and say you are against stigmatisation. In Oslo there is a media campaign – Association for Safer Drug Policies. Harm Reduction focused. One politician named campaign for attempted murder. No one wants to stigmatise PWUD but most people do. PWUD are usually presented as a problem. Advocates for getting people of drugs are celebrated. I am a former drug user. My proposal is: just take part in the debate. Our govt and health minister is on the right track – those that have and have not had problems need to take part in the debate. We are not animals and need not be washed away. We can and will contribute to society. We must continuously say this. Be must decriminalise.

Stephanie Naim, University of Montreal

Presenting one part of much larger research program. Our project encompasses 5 different sites -great representation of youth across the country – youth who have been prescribed opioids, and youth your used drugs.

Young Canadians are fastest growing population at risk of opioid overdose – emergency dept visits have doubled.

‘Emerging health threat study’

Promotes prevention and early intervention for youth at risk. 3 research questions. 4-fold methodological approach – scoping review, focus groups, critical gap survey, pan-Canadian youth summit

Focus groups:

  • Lack of empirical research of youth perceptions for opioid use and opioid crisis in Canada
  • Media is highly pervasive


  • Almost all youth had observed or encountered opioid crisis represented via multiple forms of media
  • Range of media: YouTube, TV, …
  • 3 broad ways in which youth perceived opioids in the media: medical, creatives, addiction
  • Some felt youth were demonised in the media, some though there was a change in representation of addiction in the media, presented differently in music industry
  • Consuming opioids and still be creative could enhance your social and cultural capital.
  • Many described instances of receiving info but reluctance to engage.

Creating content in liminal space

  • References to functioning user were also missing
  • Youth feel as if their experiences are not reflected in the media
  • Creative ways for youth to represent their experiences.
  • How can we as researchers work with youth?

Kirsitina Stankova, Dianova International – research assistant and journalist

The role of social networks and alternative median in the field of drugs

Social networks – most popular platforms – Facebook etc

Alternative media: 3 billion people use social networks – almost half the world populations. Social network users divided by age. 90% of 18-29 were on social networks.

Threats – 1. misleading info and fake news – misleading info can be the cause for a teenager to start drinking or taking drugs

  1. Peer pressure – 75% of teens felt pressured to drink alcohol and use drugs after seeing their friend post these activities online. Peer pressure already bad enough – now worse with social media
  2. Influence of advertisements in social media – unrealistic perception of risk, promotion of dangerous behaviour, portray unrealistic effects from drug and alcohol usage –
  3. Famous people and influences promoting an unhealthy lifestyle as fun and cool

Celebrities posting in their profiles as being very drunk as ‘funny’ – always making jokes about being drunk. Tips on how to use social media in a positive way:

  1. Use social networks as a tool to access info for research – you can use networks to access a lot of information
  2. As a tool to raise awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle – ‘stigma ends with me’ ‘mocktails’
  3. Reach hidden populations (Energy Control): campaign extremely interesting – nightlife professionals and drug checking – act as early warning system
  4. As a tool to end stigma – give a human face to the problem – give a voice to people needs – Arizona addiction centre
  5. Alternative media to spread accurate and understandable info – e.g. VICE on HBO – ‘Vice News Tonight’ – talk about drugs, talk about opioid crisis – this is a group that doesn’t read scientific articles before they use a drug – so usually access alternative media – also NETFLIX

How can we take action: more funding for research, irresponsible advertisements should be called out

Q: Green Crescent: we focus on respect for human rights – and see stigmatisation all the time. Negative language affects people all the time. We want to point out the constant promotion of drugs in mass media – placement of drugs in mass media. This feature should be analysed very closely.

Q: (Journalist): Women are protected, children are protected – so let’s focus on the drug addicts – the media can be very lousy. Need rehabilitation centres for journalists.

A (Rebecca): we are going to be holding workshops for journalists in Canada –

Q: Young journalists seem to be inherent training component where a negative approach makes the best news – how do we change this? They want to protect their jobs – how can we make mainstream media focus on positive news. Stigma is main barrier.

A: We have more power to change the social attitude – this will in turn make media use the same language.

A: we need people who believe in us, and make youth more active in their processes – make them more aware and empowered with life skills to understand themselves. Youth need to be more conscious of the problems. Action is important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *