Collection: Shop 4 A Cause- Words Matter: Substance Use Disorders & Recovery

When it comes to substance use disorders, words matter! Stigma is one of the biggest barriers to treatment and recovery for substance use disorders and the language we use contributes to stigma and you can help break down the negative stereotype associated with substance use disorder by no longer using stigmatizing words that only focus on the substance dependency one has and not their humanity. 

Addiction is no longer the primary, defining characteristic of an individual, but one of several aspects of the whole person. We must speak, write and think in a way that acknowledges the human being first, rather than their condition or disease. Using person-first or person-centered language, which focuses on the person and not their disorder, focuses on removing words that define a person by their disorder and that have negative meanings by replacing it with humanizing language that separates the person from his or her disorder. Person-centered language is language that puts people first. People are so much more than their substance use disorder.  Person-first language is humanizing. When we use terms like “addict,” “crackhead” “meth head” and “dope fiend”, we unknowingly objectify the person, reduce the person into a predetermined box of perceptions and judgments that foster discrimination, and we strip away their individuality by minimizing who they are as a PERSON first.

Therefore, using person-first language is key. The language we use when referring to people and issues speaks volumes about how we think about them. This impacts our attitudes and approaches to addressing the issues that affect those we share this world with. Calling someone an addict not only reduces them to their addiction, but it also perpetuates stigmatizing perceptions that influence the effectiveness of the social and public health policies established to address them.

"Protest any labels that turn people into things. Words are important. If you want to care for something, you call it a ‘flower;’ if you want to kill something, you call it a ‘weed.’”    ~ Don Coyhis, Native American Founder of White Bison, Inc.

 

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