Best Practice Checklist for Reporting On Substance Use

As with many diseases, substance use disorder does not discriminate, and people who use drugs are as diverse as any other group of people. Substance use disorder affects our mothers, fathers, siblings and friends. Continue to find stories that reflect the diversity of people affected by drug use.

Medicated assisted treatment such as methadone and Suboxone help to improve social functioning and promote healthier communities by reducing homelessness, increasing the likelihood of employment, reducing time spent in jail and reducing reliance on social assistance.

Continue to use terms such as “person with lived experience” or “person who use subtances” rather than “addict.”

Profile people with lived experience to humanize the issue. Recovery is a unique journey and every individual’s story is different. Highlight different types of recovery journeys and avoid making generalizations based on one person’s story.

Prescribed does not mean safe. Prescriptions, even when used as directed, can lead to dependence. 

Put statistics and trends in context rather than demonizing a specific drug. 

Provide resources for support. ConnexOntario 1.866.531.2600 – an information and referral service that is live answer 24/7, confidential and free for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling. 

Match perspectives by interviewing both the person with lived experience to capture the human-interest story and a frontline professional who can explain trends, best practices and context.

Adapted from Opioids and Addiction: A Primer for Journalists, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2016). [1]