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Words Matter | How we talk about drug use.

When discussing people with a substance use disorder, it's important to approach the conversation with empathy, understanding, and sensitivity. Stigmatizing language and judgmental attitudes can further isolate and harm individuals struggling with addiction. Here are some tips on how to discuss people with substance use disorders in a respectful and supportive way:

1. Use person-first language: Refer to the individual as a person with a substance use disorder rather than defining them solely by their condition. For example, say "a person with a substance use disorder" instead of "an addict" or "a junkie."

2. Avoid judgment and blame: Understand that addiction is a complex medical condition, and individuals struggling with it often face various challenges. Avoid making moral judgments or assigning blame for their situation.

3. Educate yourself: Learn about substance use disorders, their causes, and their effects. This knowledge can help you better understand the challenges those with addiction face.

4. Be empathetic and compassionate: Approach the conversation with empathy and compassion. Remember that addiction can be a result of various factors, including genetic, environmental, and psychological influences.

5. Focus on support and help: Encourage individuals with substance use disorders to seek treatment and support. Offer to assist them in finding resources, such as addiction treatment programs or support groups.

6. Listen actively: When talking to someone with a substance use disorder, listen actively to their experiences and feelings. Show understanding and avoid interrupting or offering unsolicited advice.

7. Avoid enabling: While offering support is essential, avoid enabling destructive behavior. Set boundaries and encourage healthy choices.

8. Use non-stigmatizing language: Be cautious with the words you use. Avoid derogatory or judgmental language that perpetuates stigma. For instance, replace phrases like "drug problem" with "substance use disorder."

9. Respect their privacy: It's important to respect an individual's privacy and not share their personal information or struggles without their consent.

10. Promote recovery and hope: Encourage individuals with substance use disorders to pursue recovery and highlight success stories and positive outcomes associated with treatment and support.

Remember that recovery from substance use disorders is possible, and supportive relationships can play a crucial role in an individual's journey toward wellness. Your words and attitudes can make a significant difference in someone's life, so always strive to be understanding, compassionate, and non-judgmental when discussing people with substance use disorders.

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