Use these words when you talk about addiction


(Stock photo)

Let’s be honest. What do you think of when you hear someone is “addicted”? What words come to mind?

Junkie? Addict? Dirty? This is where stigma starts. It starts with us.

We can all be more thoughtful, kind and mindful of the words we use when we talk about someone with a substance use disorder.

To reduce the stigma, we need to start changing the way we think and speak.

As U.S. drug czar Michael Botticelli told the Huffington Post:

“Research shows that the language we use to describe this disease can either perpetuate or overcome the stereotypes, prejudice and lack of empathy that keep people from getting treatment they need. Scientific evidence demonstrates that this disease is caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, not moral weakness on the part of the individual. Our language should reflect that.”

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has drafted a preliminary glossary of suggested language. Use it.


Dr. John F. Kelly, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is working with Botticelli’s office on reforming the language of drug use. As he told the Huffington Post:

“This change goes beyond mere political correctness. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, the language we use actually makes a profound difference in our attitudes and, thus, how we may approach our nation’s number one public health problem,”

What will we do today to stop the spread of negativity and stigma for those who suffer with substance abuse? Be mindful of your surroundings. You never know the struggles your neighbor may be going through.