Language matters. The language that we use to discuss substance use disorders can perpetuate stigma. And stigma against those with a substance use disorder can impact people’s willingness to seek help – for fear that they will be judged or discriminated against. Below are some examples of language associated with substance use disorders, and preferred terms that we can each practice using:
- “Person with a substance use disorder,” rather than “addict,” “alcoholic” or “drug abuser.” The latter three imply that the person is the problem,
rather than has a problem.
- “Positive urine drug screen” rather than “dirty drug screen.” The first clearly states the results of a drug screen, the second uses language
with an extremely negative connotation in association with a person.
- “Medication assisted treatment” rather than “replacement treatment.” “Replacement treatment” can sound like a person with an opioid use disorder
is simply replacing one bad drug for another.
- “Withdrawal management” rather than “detox.” The term “withdrawal management” more accurately describes a service being provided, whereas “detox”
has stigmatizing connotations about the inherent condition of a person.
We can all play a part in helping to reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorders by being mindful of the language that we use.