Skip to Content

For Providers

Language matters.

As a healthcare provider, you may be the first person that a mother communicates with about a substance use disorder. The resources  provided on will help guide you to our region’s treatment resources; however, please be aware that the language you use to communicate with your patients does make a difference in their recovery.


  1. Use “Person First” Language – This is important because it separates the person from the disease. No one should be defined by a health condition, but it becomes particularly harmful when a person’s identity is associated with a disease riddled with stigma and shame.
    • Preferred language:
      person in active addiction, person with substance use disorder, person experiencing an alcohol/drug problem, person in recovery, person with a history of drug/alcohol use
    • Words to avoid:
      Addict, abuser, junkie, user
  1. Avoid Stigmatizing Terminology -Using language that correlates a substance use disorder with filth, a disease with a “bad habit,” or insinuating that lifesaving medication is a replacement for a lethal drug all contribute to higher death rates, social isolation, fear, shame, and lack of effective treatment.
    • Preferred language:
      misuse, substance use disorder, substance-free, positive/negative, disease, medication-assisted treatment
    • Words to avoid:
      abuse, clean/dirty, habit/drug habit, replacement therapy, enabling, relapse
  1. Avoid Sensationalizing Terminology – An addiction is not a death sentence; it is a treatable disease and it is common. By sensationalizing the person, we are further distancing them from ourselves and others – increasing stigma.
    • Preferred language:
      person who has an addiction
    • Words to avoid:
      suffers from, victim of, afflicted by/with
Back to top