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What does it mean to choose stigma-free language?

Ending stigma around the disease of substance use disorder means using language that recognizes:

  • That substance use disorder is a chronic illness
  • That substance use disorder is not a moral failing
  • That people can and do recover

We invite you to sign the Words Matter Pledge, originally developed by the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center.

Sign the Pledge

Pledge to Choose Stigma-Free Language

We invite you to sign the Words Matter Pledge today. You can help us work toward a goal of creating a stigma-free environment at our hospitals, universities, companies, and in our community.

Use Non-Stigmatizing Language

Download and print the infographic (pdf).

  • Person with a substance use disorder
  • Substance exposed newborns
  • Substance use disorder or addiction
  • Use, misuse
  • Person in recovery
  • Abstinent
  • Not drinking or taking drugs 
  • Medication for addiction treatment (MAT)
  • Medication for Opioid Use Disorder/ Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Positive, negative (toxicology screen results)

Avoid Stigmatizing Language

  • Substance abuser or drug abuser
  • Alcoholic
  • Addict
  • User
  • Abuser
  • Drunk
  • Junkie
  • Drug habit
  • Abuse
  • Problem
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment
  • Substitution or replacement therapy
  • Clean, dirty
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment
  • Addicted babies/ born addicted

Sign the Pledge