The Power of Words

Words play a powerful role in perpetuating or reversing stereotypes, particularly in the case of addiction. The two main views of addiction are 1) that it is a moral failings and 2) that it is a disease. Although modern science proves the latter to be true, the words and phrases we use may be supporting the former view.

By using terms that emphasize people rather than symptoms, we can help reduce the stigma of addiction and recovery. Dr. John F. Kelly of Harvard Medical School explains, “This change goes beyond mere political correctness. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, the language we use actually makes a profound difference in our attitudes and, thus, how we may approach our nation’s number one public health problem.”

Using people focused language empowers patients and gives them the same dignity and respect that we give to those suffering with cancer and other chronic diseases.

Shatterproof, “a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation that addiction causes families,” created the following list of stigma reducing language: