SAY THIS. NOT THAT.
Person in active addiction
Person with a substance misuse disorder
Person experiencing an alcohol/drug problem
Why it works: these modifiers give identity to individuals as people, rather than labeling them by their illness.
Substance misuse disorder
Alcohol and drug disorder (or disease)
Why it works: TBy incorporating disorder or disease, these terms reinforce the medical nature of the condition
Person who misuses alcohol/ drugs
Has a mental health condition (or diagnosis)
Why it works: conveys the message that an individual's total identity is not his or her illness label, rather, he or she is a full person that happens to have the experience of mental illness.
Why it works: Indicates the patient is free from the dangerous compulsive behaviors of addiction. Less stigmatizing than “clean” or “sober” yet shows the person is no longer in active addiction.
Resources for the Medical Community
Impact of Person First Language in the Medical Community. Using appropriate language in a treatment setting can positively affect the ways individuals view themselves and their ability to continue treatment. Inappropriate language can have the opposite effect by stigmatizing patients and depersonalizing someone who is attempting to seek wellness. Stigmatizing words can discourage, isolate, shame, and embarrass someone with a chronic condition. Entire groups of people become devalued and excluded from society when disorder-labeling language is used to describe socially unacceptable health conditions. People may decide not to seek the treatment they need because of the stigma and social or economic consequences resulting from the way they’ve been defined.
EVERYONE HAS A STORY | Lived Experience Voices
Hear the voices of people who know only too well what stigma looks like—because they have faced it. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ending stigma. We hope these voices enlighten you and help you consider different approaches and new solutions to ending stigma.