Use of illicit drugs is a topic of frequent interest to the UK press and public, and some aspects of the reporting are a cause for concern, with frequent examples of exaggerated and inaccurate coverage.

An analysis in 2010 by the Loughborough Communications Research Centre for UKDPC examined in detail the nature of such coverage in the print media1. This submission draws on the findings from this research, and from other aspects of UKDPC’s work, including research on the impact of stigma on recovery from addiction2, as well as from other publications. It also draws on a forthcoming guide on reporting drug addiction, which we are developing with the Society of Editors3.

We focus in this submission on two aspects of press coverage of issues relating to illicit drug use.

Firstly, we explore the influence of press coverage on policy about illicit drugs. We are concerned that the reporting of stories relating to drugs can introduce exaggerations and inaccuracies that create unnecessary pressure on policymakers to quickly take particular policy decisions, on the basis of insufficient evidence.

The second part examines how the press approach stories about people with drug dependency problems. It is apparent that news stories about celebrities and others with addiction problems may fuel stigma experienced by those seeking to rebuild their lives, with consequences for their efforts to recover from addiction.

Within each of these areas, we propose specific recommendations for regulation, which we would encourage the Inquiry to consider.

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