How We Can Change Stigma
Through Anti-Stigma Language

Be an advocate – Help remove the stigma of addiction.

“The biggest killer out there is stigma. Stigma keeps people in the shadows. Stigma keeps people from coming forward and asking for help. Stigma keeps families from admitting that there is a problem.”
Jerome Adams
U.S. Surgeon General

The statistics surrounding death from opioid addiction are just staggering. And it’s everywhere; because opioids are so available, every community and nearly every family has been affected.

So how do we beat this?
The first and most important step is to remove the stigma surrounding addiction.

Be an advocate –
Help remove the stigma of addiction.

Some of the most damaging components that contribute to stigmatizing addiction include:

“Words have a dramatic impact on both clinical.care and how medical professional see and treat people with addiction”
Michael Botticelli Public Health Official
Public Health Official

Words Matter… Avoiding stigmatizing language

Instead of… Use Because...
Abuse
Misuse, harmful use, inappropriate use.
• Blames the illness on the individual
• Negates the fact that SUD is a medical condition
Habit, Drug Habit
Substance misuse, or active addition.
“Habit” denies drug addiction is a medical condition and implies willpower can stop the habitual behavior
Clean, Dirty (referring to drug test results)
Negative, positive, substance -free
• Stigmatizing because it associate illness symptoms with filth
Addict, Abuser, Junkie, Crackhead
Person with a substance use disorder, Person in active addition, Person experiencing a drug problem
• First person language
• The change shows that a person has a problem, rather than they are the problem.
• Terms are demeaning and label a person by their illness instead of their humanity
• No distinction is made between the person and the disease.
Former addict
Person in recovery or long-term recovery
• Person first language
• Shows the person has a problem rather than they are the problem.
• Avoids eliciting negative associations, punitive attitudes, and individual blame
Drug offender
Person arrested for drug violation
• Person first, neutral and non-judgmental – factual
Stayed or been clean for a time
Maintained recovery
• Neutral, non-judgmental language (see “clean”)
Sober
Well, healthy, in recovery
• Neutral, non-judgmental language

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