Talking about Addiction

Language is powerful – especially when talking about addictions. Stigmatizing language perpetuates negative perceptions. Changing the way we talk as individuals and as a state is one of the most effective and efficient ways to reduce stigma!

Following is the current medical terminology:

  • Substance Use Disorder:
    Is a clinically accurate term and replaces substance “abuse” and “dependence.” 
  • Person with a Substance Use Disorder or Person Living with an Addiction:
    Using “person” is the standard for discussing people with disabilities or chronic health conditions, such as a person with a substance use disorder. Using other terms such as “addict” or “alcoholic” can be detrimental to the person and how they are treated for their medical disease.
  • Person in Recovery:
    This is accurate and a non-stigmatizing term to refer to a person who is stopping or reducing substance use to a safe level, and reflects a positive change.
  • Medication Assisted Treatment:
    This refers to the use of specific FDA-approved medicine to treat substance use disorders combined with psychosocial support services. Medication is not a “replacement” or “substitution,” but a tool for recovery.



Watch and share this short video on substance use disorders or download the BDAS publication "Addiction: It's a Brain Thing," which describes the complexities of the brain in layman's terms.