Scientific article
Publication Date
Published by / Citation
Hulsey, J., Zawislak, K., Sawyer-Morris, G. et al. Stigmatizing imagery for substance use disorders: a qualitative exploration. Health Justice 11, 28 (2023).
Original Language



Stigmatising imagery for substance use disorders

Stigma is a barrier to treatment for individuals with substance use issues. Although there has been research conducted exploring the impact of stigmatising language, less is known about the effects of stigmatising images.

This qualitative study examines stigmatising imagery and the impact this has on people with lived experience of substance use. The researchers conducted focus groups and interviews with 14 individuals in recovery.

Participants identified images of substance use and criminal justice contact that were negative or stigmatising. Furthermore, participants also reflected on the way that certain images act as a trigger and cue for substance use.

The findings should be taken into account by all those involved in depicting issues such as addiction, individuals with SUD, and individuals involved in the justice system.

Based on qualitative feedback from patients on triggering effects and reactivity to visual cues, it is never appropriate to use drug use and drug paraphernalia imagery to depict substance use or misuse or pictures of people in cages.

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