Creating an ethical culture to support recovery from substance use disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


There is a long-standing failure to create an ethical culture around substance use disorders (SUDs) or dependence that actively supports people's recovery efforts. Issues which impede the development of prorecovery environments are complex, but include the far-reaching effects of the social stigma that surrounds SUDs; and the failure to harness relational and social support that allows debates to transcend blaming individual substance users. As part of efforts to create prorecovery environments, it is important to acknowledge that bioethics debate on SUDs is narrow in scope, prioritising topics related to its traditional interests in individual autonomy and novel technologies. As a result, it has not played a significant role in helping to transform the ethical cultures in which substance use recovery takes place. For example, it largely neglects the ethical challenges of developing an empathic, person-centred approach to substance use problems that listens and responds to the voices of clients. It has also participated little in efforts to develop a positive response to reducing the toxic effects of stigma. Indeed, some contributions from the field fan stigma, rather than alleviate it. The aim of this paper is to seed broader ethical debate, in academic literature and lay/professional communities, on how societies should respond to SUDs: steering a course between the critical, but narrow approach of bioethics and the empowerment discourse of evidence-based treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E9
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • applied and professional ethics
  • autonomy
  • clinical ethics
  • substance abusers/users of controlled substances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Creating an ethical culture to support recovery from substance use disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this