Knowledge dissemination efforts of peer engagement research: Reframing the language of the opioid crisis

Principal Investigator: 
University of British Columbia
Faculty of Medicine
School of Population and Public Health
Award Type: 


  • Jane Buxton
    University of British Columbia
  • Travis Lupick
    Georgia Straight


  • Lindsay Shaw
    University of Victoria

The media can greatly influence how the public perceives people who use drugs (PWUDs). With the escalating opioid epidemic in British Columbia, reframing how one thinks about and describes PWUDs is key to reducing the stigma of drug use, and the subsequent reluctance of PWUDs in accessing health services. While stigma surrounding drug use has traditionally served as a deterrent, it is becoming increasingly recognized that the stigmatization, discrimination and isolation of PWUDs has led to poorer health outcomes and further marginalization. Hence, a need to address the language surrounding substance use disorders and drug addiction and those who use drugs has emerged.

Co-developing with local and regional journalists in BC (knowledge users), Dr. Jane Buxton (research co-lead; BC Centre for Disease Control and University of British Columbia) and her team will attempt to translate innovative peer engagement research to optimize uptake by journalists, and reframe the language used to describe PWUDs. Peer engagement can be defined as the active participation of people with lived experience of substance use in research and policy decision-making processes. Key elements and potential outcomes of knowledge transfer activities include:

  • Organization of a knowledge symposia with local and regional knowledge users (i.e. key media) to share, contextualize and harmonize the research with existing practice norms.
  • Development of a news release and media availability with a peer spokesperson, researchers, and research users (based on synthesized knowledge from the symposia).
  • Creation of a one-page infographic document for BC newsrooms.
  • Creation of original photography that accurately shows different views of the opioid crisis, which would then be provided to the media as stock images.
  • Submission of an editorial on behalf of the research team that contextualizes the role language plays in reducing stigma among people who use drugs.
  • Creation of a brief educational module offered to BC’s five schools/departments of journalism to share the synthesized findings among journalism and broadcast trainees.
  • Outreach campaign to editors of The Canadian Press Stylebook (popular reference book providing guidelines to journalists; published annually).
Host Institution: 
University of British Columbia
Research Location: 
University of British Columbia