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Alcohol & other drugs stigma

Experiences of stigma and discrimination are a common occurrence in the everyday lives of people living with problematic alcohol and other drug use, causing significant harm and creating major barriers to seeking help and support.

It can lead to, and compound, social and economic disadvantage, often long after substance use has stopped.

Options for reform

Our report, Changing attitudes, changing lives: Options to reduce stigma and discrimination for people experiencing problematic alcohol and other drug use outlines 18 options for systemic reform.

The report found stigma and discrimination is commonly encountered in the attitudes and behaviours of individuals, as well as structurally through policies, laws and practices. Stigma and discrimination have been found to be most pervasive in five settings:

  • health care and public health
  • welfare and support services
  • police, public order and criminal law
  • employment
  • society at large.

In these settings stigma and discrimination negatively impact people’s access to services (including health care), fair treatment in the justice system, employment opportunities, relationships with family and friends, their feelings of social inclusion, and their drug use.

To effectively address stigma and discrimination, a multi-faceted approach that addresses individual attitudes and behaviours, in tandem with strategies focused on societal structures and systems, is required.

About the report

The Commission’s report is a commitment of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Action Plan 2015-17, which aimed to reduce the adverse impact of alcohol and other drugs on Queenslanders.

The report sought to encourage policy discussion and enhance understanding of the occurrence and impacts of stigma and discrimination. It also informs services, and the community, about ways to address the attitudes, policies and practices that may directly or indirectly host stigma and discrimination.

The options for reform are based on government and community consultation, as well as commissioned research  Reducing stigma and discrimination for people experiencing problematic alcohol and other drug use, by the Drug Policy Modelling Project, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.


Implementation of this report requires commitment and collective action by community, government and industry across a range of areas including health, employment, education, housing and justice.

The options for reform include some actions that can be commenced quickly, while other options require ongoing policy discussion and consideration with a range of people from the community and government.

The Commission will publish an update report outlining progress made towards implementing the options for reform, 12 months after the publication of this report.

Hear some of the Commissioner's thoughts in this video