Hard drugs and alcohol. Close up

Is the Word Addiction Stigmatizing?

Do words matter when it comes to addiction? For many people, addiction is a condition that is not fully understood. It seems easy enough to tell a person struggling with alcohol use disorder to simply put down the glass and stop drinking. Yet, that doesn’t work, and it is not possible no matter how much they want to do so. Addiction is a complex, progressive disease that requires professional care, no different from heart disease or cancer. Yet, there is a lot of stigma around having it. That stigma, including words like “addiction,” is often enough to keep people from reaching out to get the help they need.

At America’s Rehab Campuses, we want you to be fully aware that you have the right to get help quickly, and there is no stigma that you have to face when you reach out to our compassionate team.

How Is Addiction Stigmatizing?

Most people talk about addiction in a very lax manner. They may use addiction in a way that causes a person to feel shame for having this condition. Many people joke about having an addiction to something insignificant, such as a coffee drink or a specific performer. Yet, as a complicated disease, substance use disorder is not something to mock or lessen in terms of its severity and the impact that it has on a person’s life.

What is stigma?

Stigma is a term that describes discrimination that is placed on a person, place, or even a country. Substance use disorder stigma often revolves around inaccurate or unfounded thoughts. For example, some people may say that a person with a substance use disorder “isn’t capable of managing their treatment” or that their condition is “their own fault.”

Why does stigma matter?

A person that feels stigmatized for their substance use disorder may face a number of challenges:

  • They may be less willing to reach out for help because they do not want to be judged for needing it.
  • Some people may feel like they are being pitied. Some people may even feel fear or anger.

Words can matter to a person who is using drugs and alcohol, especially when they are unable to stop doing so. Yet, there are steps that anyone can take to lessen this blow.

What You Can Do to Help Others

Take the time to think about what you say when you are talking to someone who has a substance use disorder. Even if you are unsure if they have a disorder, it helps to use words that are less offensive and may even be more supportive of their wellbeing.

Know what works to say and what not to say. Here are some examples:

  • Instead of saying “addict” or “user,” say a person with substance use disorder
  • Avoid using words like “abuser” or “junkie”
  • Avoid “alcoholic” or “drunk” and instead, use a person with alcohol use disorder or a person that misuses these substances
  • Instead of saying “former addict,” say a person is in recovery from substance use disorder
  • Instead of saying someone has a “habit” of using drugs, state a person has a drug addiction or substance use disorder

The term “addiction” itself can seem stigmatizing to some people. The key to remember here is that it is how you phrase the word and what your meaning is. A person who has an addiction has a complex and chronic disease. The key is that they are not their addiction and that this is a disease, not just something they “do” because they want to.

Help Support Your Loved One Getting Help

A person that uses drugs and alcohol may need to get help for what is happening to them. They may need a supportive, helpful hand to get them to the next level of their care. You can provide that support to them. To do so, ask them what is happening and offer to support their efforts to get help. That may include helping them find treatment and listening when they talk about just how hard it is to stop.

America’s Rehab Campuses can help you, too. Our medical detox and drug addiction treatment programs are readily available to help your loved one get the help they need.