Language continues to evolve regarding AOD.

It is important to note that the language used to describe people who use drugs can have an impact on how they perceive themselves and how others view them. Inaccurate and irresponsible use of language and terminology is stigmatising for people who use AOD.

When communicating about AOD use:

  • Labelling a person by their AOD use can be stigmatising and demoralising. A person is not defined by their alcohol or drug use. It is just one aspect of their life. Instead of using words such as ‘addict’, ‘junkie’ or ‘crackhead’ use ‘person who uses drugs’.
  • It is important to use terminology that accurately describe a person’s AOD use. For example, choose the phrasing ‘problematic substance use’ instead of ‘drug habit’.
  • Describing someone who uses drugs or previously used drugs as ‘dirty’ or ‘clean’ is stigmatising. Instead use language such as ‘person who uses or no longer uses drugs’.
  • The use of combatant language, such as ‘war on drugs’ or ‘fight’, and ‘combat drugs’ to describe measures to address AOD issues can be discriminatory. Alternatively, words like ‘respond’, ‘program’, ‘address’ and ‘manage’ could be used.
  • Statements or phrases that describe people who use AOD as ‘hopeless’ or similar may discourage users from seeking help.
  • Avoid the use of words such as ‘epidemic’ to describe an increase in drug use. It is both sensationalist and alarmist. Instead, describe trends or patterns as an ‘increase’ or ‘decrease’ in use or prevalence of AOD use.
  • When using descriptive terms such as ‘significant’ be sure that the change is consistent with the scientific meaning of the word.