Stigma towards people bereaved by drug-related death

Shared by Edie - 24 June 2021
Originally posted by Edie - 24 June 2021

Drug-related deaths can result in complex emotional turmoil for family members who are going through a grieving process at the same time as often experiencing a level of stigma.

Despite the high frequency of drug-related deaths worldwide, there is a need for knowledge around how the bereaved deal with grief and the nature and the implication of stigma surrounding a drug-related death.

This article, published in the journal of Addiction Research and Theory, gathers the views of 225 parents, siblings, children, partners, other family members and close friends on their experience of bereavement and stigma.


  • Negative comments were most likely to come from close/extended family and friends, work colleagues, neighbours, media, social media and professionals.
  • The most common content of negative comments related to dehumanizing and stereotypical ‘labelling’ of the deceased.
  • Participants also described indirect expressions and actions that indicated the people around them held stigmatising attitudes.
  • Many of the respondents described how the deceased were often blamed for their death.
  • Participants shared how people would try and console them by suggesting it was the best outcome to relieve suffering.

Behaviour and language of this nature is deeply insensitive and ostracises a group of people who are grieving. The authors suggest that greater awareness and knowledge of the discrimination and prejudice experienced by the bereaved might help reduce the harmful levels of stigma.