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

Drug Habit

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.

Crazy/Psycho Insane/Lunatic


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 Pharmacists and Pharmacy Chains

Stigma may be experienced in all areas of life, but stigmatizing language or actions from pharmacists is particularly harmful because it negatively affects people seeking medication at a time when they are their most vulnerable. Stigma in pharmaceutical practices undermines proper medication administration, treatment, and successful health outcomes. And as a result, is a barrier to care for people seeking services for disease prevention or treatment of acute or chronic conditions like Opioid Use Disorder, Substance Use Disorder, HIV and Hepatitis C, and Mental Illness. Using appropriate terminology, language, and actions—free from bias and discrimination—positively affects the way patients may view themselves and their willingness to continue treatment.

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.

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