15th February issue

 Too hot to handle?

Why we have to take on the headline writers

The issue of stigma is so familiar to the drug and alcohol field it almost feels too big to tackle. Yet that’s the task of the UKDPC and partners, as they launch the first phase of a project to understand stigma (page 14).Partnering with the mental health field, housing and young people’s charities is giving an opportunity to put heads together and share experience. As daunting as the prospect of changing public opinion might be,hearing from colleagues in the mental health field about how attitudes to people with psychotic depression have changed ought to give us courage that the media and their audiences are educable.At DDN we are privileged to have insight to the circumstances behind addiction and be constantly educated by our readers. But five and a half years ago, starting up the magazine, we were on a very steep learning curve, which began with learning the pitfalls of using the ‘wrong’ language. (And this is still a minefield, with readers disputing words such as ‘addict’ which represents an offensive label to some, but which is a symbol of recovery to others taking the 12-step route.) We had the advantage of being able to learn from people who have shared their personal stories with us, as well as those who work with them – which makes me believe that educating the mainstream media is not a lost cause. Many of the people at the UKDPC’s seminar last week demonstrated that their lives were a complicated crossover between personal experience of addiction and professional expertise in the field – so surely it can’t be impossible to tap into the fact that most people,whether they write the papers or read them, have experience of addiction in some form. If prejudice is born of ignorance, we have to press on with educating the press.And before you get on with reading the issue… a quick thank you to everyone who came to the ‘Right here,right now!’ conference in Birmingham last week. Highlights will be in our special issue, out on 1 March.

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