Why Language Matters When Talking About Addiction

"My laundry is 'clean' and 'dirty' — not people." In this video, the Addiction Policy Forum lays out how to use language that doesn't stigmatize or discourage those with substance use disorders

October 28, 2022
Dictionary opened to the definition of addiction

You may have noticed that most words associated with addiction and substance use disorder aren’t terribly positive, and many are downright insulting. You may also think that’s a pretty minor issue in the greater constellation of personal, medical and societal problems addiction can create. But stigma causes real harm.

Stigma blames people for their addictions; it permits those without substance use disorders to withhold compassion and understanding; and perhaps worst of all, it discourages those with them from seeking help.

There are a lot of factors that conspire to create stigma, but one we can all address with minimal effort is being more conscious about the language we use when talking about substance use disorders.

Addiction Policy Forum founder Jessica Hulsey shares some insightful — and snappy — tips for being more mindful of our words. Use terms from the realm of health instead of crime: “disorder,” not “abuse.” Emphasize the person over the addiction. “We don’t define or limit someone to their illness,” says Hulsey. Watch the video to learn more.

Source: Addiction Policy Forum

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