Person-first language is vital in addiction treatment because it values the humanity of each individual struggling with addiction. The stigma of addiction can produce drastic effects on those who wish to rid themselves of these behaviors.

Stigma can be defined as discrimination or a set of beliefs that target another group or set of beliefs. The stigma involved with addiction can push someone from receiving treatment and even cause professionals to provide substandard care. The irony is painful considering that people plunge deeper into addiction due to these interactions.

The global pandemic has influenced the rates of addiction due to the isolation and uncertainty of where the world will be next. This is the perfect window for addiction to thrive, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.

If you plan to stage an intervention for a loved one, make sure to practice these language skills to build intimacy. You want them to feel supported rather than blaming them for their addiction. Addiction may be a way for them to cope with the stresses and trauma of their experiences.

What is Person-First Language?

Addiction is still noted as a moral failing on the person, and this perception needs to change. Person-first language can be described as modified terms and phrases used to identify with a person rather than their condition. The language and words we use have more weight to them than we often realize.

Addiction is characterized as a disease that manipulates the reward centers of the brain, causing the person to repeat these behaviors despite negative outcomes. Dependence on addictive substances can lead to addiction after a tolerance is built from the amount and frequency used.

Imagine going through depths of severe diabetes, despite your family history, and people you meet disrespect you as a failure on your part. Addictions are relentless and do not discriminate.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of stigma, you might have felt less than a person. Stigma can infect the psyche, mostly through the outside world of social norms. Stigmas are spread through assumptions and can present consequences that shape a person’s life.

What Are the Risk Factors for Addiction?

There is no single factor that causes addiction since each case is different. Addiction can spring in anyone. The following factors may influence your chances of developing a substance use disorder.


Researchers have discovered that your genetics can make you more susceptible to addiction through certain genes. The percentage ranges from 40-60%. These genes may be more sensitive to addictive substances compared to others. For example, if substance use disorders are prominent in your family, then your chances increase of developing a disorder.

Social Environment

If you grew up in an environment where substance misuse was common, there’s a chance you’ll develop a substance use disorder. Adolescents can observe a sibling, caregiver, or peer experiment with substances as a means to cope. A healthy home environment is critical for substance use prevention.

Age of First Use

Adolescents and young adults are more likely to experiment with substances to fit in among their peers. This can have major impacts on their development if they continue to follow these patterns, as the potency of certain substances has increased.

If you begin using drugs and alcohol early, there’s a higher probability that you can develop an addiction into adulthood. This does not mean that you’ll automatically have a substance use disorder. If there is more than one risk factor, this can impact you greatly.

The Substance Itself

Substances such as heroin or nicotine can spark the brain’s chemical messengers that produce addictive reactions. This can be what pushes you off the cliff into the abyss of substance use. Some prescription medications are misused that have immediate release, while others remain in the body for long periods. Certain substances might not have draining side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

The Method Used

Smoking or injecting a substance gives an immediate release but may wear off. The comedown of a high can influence a person to use more of a substance. The way the body metabolizes the substance can manipulate how long a person can be under the influence.

Mental Health

There’s a growing number of people who struggle with substance use disorders and mental health conditions. These are known as co-occurring disorders. Mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD can influence people to self-medicate to cope with their struggles. This can directly impact their mental health conditions, often making them worse instead of the quick buzz from their substance.

Personality Traits

Your personality and temperament can influence the way you approach substance use. Those who exhibit the following at young age are more likely to develop an addiction:

  • Sensation-seeking
  • Impulsiveness
  • Anxiety-prone
  • Hopelessness

How Should Person-First Language Be Used To Help Remove the Stigma That Surrounds Treatment for Addiction?

The term “substance use” is a more accepted way to address those struggling. The language used to describe addiction shape the way we interact with these people. Empathy can reward those who seek to understand the nature of their peers. The goal of person-first language is to frame the person’s struggles as a health condition rather than an active choice.

These are some terms to avoid:

  • Addict
  • User
  • Junkie
  • Alcoholic
  • Drunk
  • Habit
  • Addicted baby
  • Clean
  • Dirty

Here are ways to incorporate person-first language:

  • A person with substance use disorder
  • Member
  • A person with alcohol use disorder
  • Person in recovery
  • Drug addiction
  • Use, misuse, use other than prescribed
  • Addiction medication/pharmacophathy
  • Testing positive/person who uses drugs
  • Newborn exposed to substances

We all want to feel seen and heard for the people we are. The chronic stress from stigma can have lasting effects. What’s worse is that these stigmas can be reinforced by authority figures, the media, and even family members.

What Does Person-First Language Look Like?

The importance of person-first language stems from the idea that the person has a problem rather than being the problem. These terms are designed to avoid negative context and individual blame, considering this can make addiction worse. Person-first language implies more legitimacy by focusing on treating the condition.

Using clinical language can help the member feel less stigmatized and inspire a sense of hope. This is particular for “babies born with addiction” since addiction is a behavioral disorder. It’s crucial for medical professionals to set an example by practicing person-first language to avoid negative interactions.

If you’ve recently understood the complications of the disease known as addiction, you could benefit from the following:

  • Demonstrate your kindness and compassion
  • Practice active listening
  • Try avoiding judgment based-comments and patterns
  • Use facts and statistics to aid your points
  • Call out mistreatment of those with addiction

What Exactly Is the Stigma That Surrounds Addiction?

Many stigmas surround addiction, including the moral failing of those struggling with addiction. Stigma is one glowing factor that prevents a person from seeking addiction treatment.

The education of addiction has not been consistent and requires many parties to provide the most accurate portrayal of addiction in people. The progress to include person-first language has been sluggish. The stigma around addiction can cause a person to have low self-esteem and even self-harm.

The stigma of addiction from healthcare providers has poured fuel to the growing fire of substance use in the public consciousness. If the member is intoxicated or withdrawing, the provider could mishandle the care through substandard means or even refuse treatment.

This can be devastating for those actively seeking support during these times.

No one wants to be rejected when they need care. Those struggling with addiction could internalize these events and behaviors, building stress and shame. There is a lack of information on these specific challenges in addiction recovery.

The global pandemic has increased this stigma since people actively avoid contact, even if it’s to administer life-saving practices. For example, first responders might be hesitant to give Naxolone to someone who overdosed to avoid transmission. Certain hospitals may prioritize other people instead of those with clear substance use disorders.

The training for those with substance use disorders should be practiced to avoid the stigmas surrounding addiction. Some professionals may fear the risks associated with treating members with substance use disorders such as violence.

Those who work in healthcare settings should integrate compassion and understanding for people struggling with addiction. The public knowledge of how addiction affects the brain requires an update to reduce these stigmas.

What Are The Reasons A Person Does Not Seek Addiction Treatment?

Despite the resources available for addiction treatment, you might find yourself at crossroads to commit. The Affordable Care Act has closed the gap on how accessible addiction treatment can be, especially through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

There are a variety of reasons a person could opt out of addiction treatment:

  • They have internalized the stigma of addiction and feel they don’t deserve it.
  • They could be uncertain that their disorder requires treatment.
  • They may not know how to live without addictive substances.
  • They fear failure.
  • They are in denial of their addiction.
  • They can’t afford it.

Recovery Start Here at Sana Lake

Your path towards recovery may be littered with doubts and rejection. Person-first language practices ensure that you are treated like a human being during these difficult times. Sana Lake dedicates our time working with professionals to provide you with the best treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction, feel free to contact us today.