Publication Date
Published by / Citation
The Open Notebook
Original Language


United States

Covering Substance Use and Addiction Responsibly

Stories about substance use and addiction can be among the thorniest that health and science reporters encounter. This topic carries a long history of marginalizing the people most directly affected. In addition, deeply ingrained societal misconceptions about substance use make it difficult to separate fact from fiction. And a tangle of political and legal issues adds another layer of complexity to navigate. For all these reasons and more, it’s easy for reporters covering such stories to make avoidable missteps. By leaning too heavily on tragic or grisly narratives or buying into simplistic and damaging myths, stories can perpetuate the stigma surrounding substance use and downplay the real possibility of treatment and recovery.

Journalists can help reverse this pattern. Good reporting on substance use and addiction is both accurate and sensitive, includes sources with lived experience without compounding their trauma, points out scientific limitations, explores how intersecting issues such as mental health and poverty are at play, and, when possible, frames stories around solutions and hope. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work to sharpen your coverage in this area

Read the full guide: The Open Notebook

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