Substance Use Disorders: A Guide To the Use of Language
This language guide was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). Working with SAMHSA’s National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month Planning Partner organizations, SAMHSA’s Partners for Recovery (PFR) initiative and the PFR National Subcommittee on Reducing Stigma, this guide integrates input from numerous interviews, focus groups, and documents. It also incorporates feedback and edits from reviewers representing public and private treatment- and recovery-related entities nationally. This is a dynamic document that will change as the science around substance use disorders and recovery continues to evolve, and as further consensus on language is achieved.
This guide is not intended to serve as a glossary of clinical terminology, nor does it offer a comprehensive list of all the stigmatizing words used in association with substance use disorders. Many casual and slang terms are so clearly stigmatizing that they need not be repeated here. Rather, this guide draws attention to the terminology that currently causes confusion and perpetuates stigma within the prevention/treatment/recovery workforce, and it promotes the use of words that will advance the understanding of substance use disorders as a health issue.
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