Individuals with substance related disorders face discrimination and prejudice due to lack of understanding about the disease. The stigma surrounding substance related disorders can be reduced by understanding the evolving language used to describe these topics. Because stigma can be directed at an individual by others (social stigma), can be internalized (self-stigma), or can be systematic (structural stigma), everyone has an opportunity to use language that challenges drug-related stigma.
Please note: Sometimes people directly affected by behavioral health disorders may choose to self-identify in different ways, and those choices should be respected. The aim of this guide is not to police other people’s language, which may vary based on their lived experiences and setting. For example, someone self-identifying in a meeting may use different words than a healthcare professional, journalist, or even a family member.