While growing up many of us have heard the phrase use your words or your words have power. Yet somewhere along the way as a society we forgot just how powerful words can be. We forgot how hurtful slang words are and how they can leave people to feel hurt and shame. While having a conversation about substance use disorder is not as taboo as it once was, it is still plagued with negative stigmas that leave many Americans to feel guilt, fear and to never receive treatment. So why as a society would we chose to use language when discussing such a sensitive topic like substance use that feeds into stereotypes and misconceptions?
Its important that we understand how some words carry bigger meaning then we realize. Words like addict, druggie, drug abuser make a person out to be nothing more then their substance use disorder. Language and slang like this only reinforce the stigma that all ready follows substance use disorders. To successfully end stigma, we need to change our vocabulary.
We must start by seeing the whole person and using language that reflects that. Using terms like person with substance use disorder or person in recovery, describes the person more accurately and does not allow the substance use to define them. This will help reduce the shame people feel and make it easier for them to seek treatment.
It’s important as a society we work together to help end the stigma. While it will take time through awareness, education, and continuing the conversation, we can begin to break the stigma once and for all.