Why You Shouldn’t Use the Word “Addict”

“For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves. Words have to change so attitudes change.”

Michael Botticelli, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in The Boston Globe

Addiction is a disease.

It’s important that we use language that frames it as a health issue and shows respect to people with an addiction and to their families who are impacted. Just like we would with any other disease, like diabetes or asthma.

A person shouldn’t be defined or labeled by his or her disease or illness, it is something they have. For example: Instead of calling someone a “diabetic,” it’s preferable to use person-first language and say “someone with diabetes.” The same goes with the word “addict.”

We have a choice when we communicate. We can use words that perpetuate the negative stigma around substance use – words that label people with an addiction in a negative, shameful and judgmental way. Or we can use words that are compassionate, supportive and respectful – words that helps others understand substance use disorder as the health issue that it is.

Why You Shouldn’t Use the Word “Addict”