Stigma around substance use disorder
People who struggle with substance use disorder face a wide range of stigmas. A stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person or a group apart. When people are labeled primarily because of their opioid or another substance use disorder, they are being negatively stereotyped.
Language that includes biased and hurtful words can lead to discrimination and social exclusion. Stigma and discrimination are barriers not only to acknowledging the problem but also to seeking and accessing treatment and ultimately, to recovery.
Language is powerful – especially when talking about addictions.
Here are some examples of stigma reducing language that should be used, from the National Council for Behavioral Health, “Language Matters.” (2015)
Person with opioid use disorder.
Addict, user, druggie, junkie, abuser
Person living in recovery
Person arrested for a drug violation
Medication is a treatment tool
Medication is a crutch
Had a setback
Maintained recovery; substance-free
Negative drug screen
Positive drug screen
Dirty drug screen