Let’s look at the importance of language in our field! It’s not a new concept, but one that’s important to review. It’s not a simple matter of political correctness or semantics – stigmatizing words can discourage, isolate, shame and embarrass. So let’s take a practical look at how we can reduce stigma and incorporate this into our lives. #languagematters


SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER
not Drug Habit

Calling an addictive disorder a habit diminishes the medical nature of it. It also implies that the resolution of the problem is simply a matter of willpower. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just being able to stop the habitual behavior. It also implies that addiction is a moral failing, which is 100% wrong!
 

PERSON EXPERIENCING SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER
not Addict or Junkie

What do you see when you look at this picture – a little girl, a young child, a kid? If, as this little girl grows, she experiences a substance use disorder, is she any less of a person? No, of course not. So, why then would we label her as something other than what she is? Think about it…people are people, so stop labeling them as anything less than!

MISUSE or RISKY USE
not Substance Abuse

Abuse is an ugly word. It’s a word often associated with “sexual abuse”, “child abuse” & “domestic abuse.” But one of those things is not like the others: In the other types of abuse, there is a perpetrator harming a victim. Frame addiction as “substance abuse” and it’s easy to see why it should be a crime, but call it what it really is and it sounds like something we know to be true – it is a condition to be treated medically.

TESTING NEGATIVE/POSITIVE FOR DRUG USE
not Clean or Dirty Drug Screen

Remember that dreadful math exam? Imagine you got anything other than an “A+” on it and your instructor said you were “dirty.” How would that make you feel – not so good, right? These terms are stigmatizing because they associate test results with filth. Call it what it is, and quit putting a negative label on things.
 

PERSON IN RECOVERY
not Former Alcoholic

Your past does not define you. People have the capacity to learn, grow, change and achieve a life filled with meaning and purpose. People do recover and live their best lives!

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