CMHA, National Addictions Awareness Week: Words Matter

The Prevention Conversation: A Shared Responsibility Project

graphic-for-blog-post-on-language-640x315Recovery Language: A Guide

Here are some ways to avoid using language that stigmatizes substance use and addiction:

  1. Use “people-first language.” For instance, refer to “person who uses substances”, or “person who has a substance use disorder”; and not a “drug user”, “addict” or “alcoholic”. This is more neutral language that helps to maintain the individuality of the person.
  2. Refer to “substance use” rather than “substance abuse”. “Abuse” or “abuse” has been shown to contribute to negative outcomes, and may be more likely to occur.
  3. Choose to recognize that substance use disorders are health disorders. They are not the result of any kind of character flaw or lack of personal willpower. In fact, substance use disorders are the most common mental health disorder.
  4. Choose to refer to “drug poisoning” rather than to “drug overdose” as the latter perpetuates the myth that a person has “brought this on themselves”.
  5. Referring to a “drug…

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