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The Words We Use Matter. Reducing Stigma through Language

Stigma remains the biggest barrier to addiction treatment faced by patients. The terminology used to describe addiction has contributed to the stigma. Many derogatory, stigmatizing terms were championed throughout the “War on Drugs” in an effort to dissuade people from misusing substances. Education took a backseat, mainly because little was known about the science of addiction. That has changed, and the language of addiction medicine should be changed to reflect today’s greater understanding. By choosing language that is not stigmatizing, we can begin to dismantle the negative stereotype associated with addiction.