Rewriting The Media

Scottish Recovery Consortium and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs have collaborated to research how addiction and recovery from substances were portrayed in the Scottish media between the period of late 2017 to mid-2019 after both charities shared concerns around the stigma towards people with addictions, and the lack of lived experience highlighted in the media.

Rewriting the Media’s Portrayal of Addiction and Recovery started just ahead of the announcement of the 2018 drug-related death statistics in Scotland which were published on 16 July 2019. Based on previous years, it was expected that there would be a lot of media attention around the announcement which would provide plenty of content to analyse for our project.

It was expected that there would be a change in the tone of how the media reported on addictions and recovery when the drug-related death statistics were released. The media was expected to become more compassionate in their reporting, but the period before and the period after the statistics were expected to contain more stigmatising language and images, and a general lack of lived experience and support information. Knowing that there were going to be different tones and themes picked up in articles and reports, we decided to complete a thematic analysis over the period of late 2017 to mid-2019.

Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs supports anyone affected by someone else’s alcohol or drug use, which includes family members, friends, colleagues, and anyone you say is your family. The Scottish Recovery Consortium supports, represents and connects recovery across Scotland by working with recovery in all its forms, including the Recoverists network and a large community of people in recovery. With these large communities of people in recovery and family members, we were able to consult with them through an online survey and a face-to-face workshop to gather their views and opinions on the media’s portrayal of addiction and recovery.

The thematic analysis of articles and reports, the online survey and the face-to-face workshop gave us a bank of information and content to answer our main question of how addiction and recovery is being portrayed in the Scottish media.

Reporting of Substance - Discussion Event

Scottish Recovery Consortium and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs then collaborated with Adfam to create a discussion event for journalists, broadcasters, editors, press photographers and anyone with a role in developing or sharing media content to explore the proposed development of new media guidelines for reporting on alcohol and drugs, including media coverage of alcohol and drugs, addiction, recovery, alcohol and drug-related deaths, and harm to others (such as children and families).

This idea builds on existing media guidelines around reporting on mental healthsuicide, and domestic abuse deaths. (Click to read)

This discussion will brought together views and experiences from the academic and media communities, alongside individuals and family members with lived experience of alcohol and drug harm.

The programme featured a variety of speakers and a panel made up of  lived experience of media involvement by individuals in recovery and family members and also people working within the media.

Next Steps

Scottish Recovery Consortium, working with Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs and Adfam are now looking to create a working group to build on all of this work and feedback to create effective ‘guidelines’ to help create change.

This working group will be made up of people with lived experience of recovery and family members and people who work within the media and potentially people who have experience of both.  

If you are interested in this work or perhaps have some relevant information or resources please contact