Words Matter

Stigma stops people from getting the help they need. Stigma is the biggest barrier to patients in need of treatment, and stigmatizing terms were championed during the war on drugs. Now, we know more about the science of addiction, and the language we use to describe addiction should now be changed to reflect our greater understanding of it.

Whatever words we choose should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.

-Gautama Buddha

By changing the language we use to describe addiction, we can de-stigmatize addiction. In turn, patients will regain self-esteem, lawmakers may appropriate more funding for prevention and treatment, doctors may treat patients without the disapproval of their peers, insurers will cover treatment, and people will come to understand addiction as the medical condition that it is.

The resources below are free for any advocate of prevention or treatment to use. Share them with doctors, pastors, local legislators, and other members and leaders of your community.

Words Matter for People with Addictive Disorders

Words Matter Rack Card

Using Person-First Language Across the Continuum of Care

Pronouns: A Resource