Responding to the R.I. Opioid Crisis with Hope and Healing Part 4


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.
1  Ferner, M. 12/06/2017.  Drug Addiction Language, Huffington Post
2 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


Users of this website are invited to post comments in response to news articles and blog posts published here. In order to maintain a respectful community, we insist that comments be polite, respectful and tolerant of opposing viewpoints. We reserve the right to remove comments that are hostile, hateful or abusive to others, or that constitute personal attacks. In the interest of transparency, we highly recommend that users comment using their full names. For those who feel a need for more anonymity, however, we will allow posts using first names and last initial.

comments powered by Disqus