Language matters when it comes to advocating with and for individuals with substance use disorders. Many of the common terms used to describe people with problematic use of drugs and alcohol further add to the stigmatization and discrimination of this community.

Here are some alternative words and phrases to consider:

Instead of using the term(s)…Consider using the following term(s)…
Person/Someone with addiction
Individual in recovery or individual seeking recovery
Person with a substance use disorder
(e.g. “They have been clean for 10 years,” or
“They are finally clean and off drugs.”)
“They have been in recovery for 10 years.”
“They are currently in recovery.”
“The drug test came back dirty.”“The drug test came back positive for drugs.”
AbuserIndividuals with addiction or a substance use disorder
Drug problem
Drug habit
Problematic use of drugs and alcohol
Reformed addict
Reformed alcoholic
Person in recovery
Experimental user
Recreational user
Person starting to use drugs
Substitution therapy
Replacement therapy
Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication-Assisted Recovery