Third in a series from Peggy Matteson, UCC-RI Health Ministry Consultant
The Words We Choose Matter.
We are often drawn into conversations about those affected by opioid misuse and other substance use disorders. “…The language we choose to use when discussing this disease can either perpetuate or overcome the stereotypes, prejudice and lack of empathy that keep people from getting the treatment they need.”1
When discussing substance use disorders, our words can be powerful when they “inform clarify, encourage, support, enlighten, and unify. On the other hand, stigmatizing words often discourage, isolate, misinform, shame and embarrass…”2
The stigma of this disease remains the biggest barrier for patients to self-identify and seek a life-saving cure.
Using person-first language increases understanding of the condition as a disease and reduces the societal stigma that prevents people from seeking medical treatment. Person-first language is nonjudgmental and identifies a diagnosis that is purely clinical. Just as it is more appropriate to say a “person with diabetes” rather than “the diabetic”, it is more appropriate to say “a person with a substance use disorder” rather than “the addict.” A short glossary with more recommendations is available here
Ferner, M. 12/06/2017. Drug Addiction Language, Huffington Post
Excerpt from “Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to the Use of Language” published by CSAT and SAMHSA
Read Part 1 of the series - What Can Your Church Do
Read Part 2 of the series - Open Your Doors
Read Part 3 of the series - Increase Awareness
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