Choose Your Words Wisely: How We Talk About Addiction Matters

An important discussion we need to have is about the impact of language on stigma in addiction treatment. Language is powerful and labels are sometimes lifelong sentences. As physicians we can choose the language we use when talking with patients and about patients. How can we start to reduce this stigma by replacing harmful language?

  1. Replace the words drug addictdrug abuser, with words like patient with opioid use disorder 
  2. Replace Opioid abuse or dependence with opioid use disorder
  3. Replace problem with disease or illness 
  4. Replace dirty urine with positive or negative urine test 
  5. Replace Relapse with return to use
  6. Replace being clean with remission
  7. Replace Medication assisted therapy with opioid agonist treatment or medication for opioid use disorder

Language is powerful and can influence the perception of addiction and treatment. There have been several advocacy campaigns to change the way we talk about addiction. Friendly reminder to choose your words carefully, it may make a significant difference in peoples lives. 

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