Resources on De-Stigmatizing Language

Language matters, and research shows that stigmatizing language contributes to barriers for people experiencing substance use disorder to access services. The following resources provide information about moving towards bias-free language and discuss the ongoing shifts in language related to substance use disorder.

JEAP Produced Resources

Asking Demographic Questions in Research

From the JEAP Initiative 

This guide, compiled by the JEAP Initiative, shares best practices for asking demographic questions in an inclusive way.

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From the JEAP Initiative

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External Resources

A Guide to Bias-Free Language

From the American Psychological Association 

General guidelines for writing about people without bias across a range of topics and specific guidelines that address individual characteristics.


From the Recovery Research Institute 

A dictionary related to substance use disorder designed to destigmatize and create a unified language. 

Words Matter: Language and Stigma Reduction

From the Peer Recovery Center of Excellence 

A webinar designed to aid participants in identifying the words we use and how they affect individuals with substance use disorder. 

How Language Choice Can Reduce Stigma

From the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration

Understanding the impact of substance use disorder stigma and tips for avoiding stigmatized language. 

Health Equity Style Guide

From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Principles and preferred terms for non-stigmatizing, bias-free language for the COVID-19 response. 

Reframing Transition Age Foster Youth

From the Frame Works Institute 

A communication toolkit designed to collectively build the understanding and support we need to change the narrative around transition age foster youth.

Choosing Appropriate Language to Reduce Stigma

From the Nature Portfolio 

The words we use to describe mental illnesses and substance use disorders (addiction to alcohol and other legal and illegal drugs) can impact the likelihood that people will seek help and the quality of the help they receive.

The Addiction Psychologist Podcast

From the Society for Addiction Psychology

Language surrounding clinical care in addiction is unlike any other area of medicine in that it often uses terms that are pejorative and lack specificity. In the episode Dr. John Kelly - Stigma in Addiction and Courses of Recovery, Dr. John Kelly talks about why we need to “stop talking dirty” in addiction research and treatment. 

Underground Scholars Language Guide

From the Berkeley Underground Scholars 

A guide for communicating about people involved in the Carceral System (Legal System)

Recommendations for Ethical Reporting on Addiction

From Reporting on Addiction

A guide to help journalists stop perpetuating stigma through their reporting and start providing well-rounded coverage of addiction and recovery. 

Preferred Terms for Select Communities

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This webpage provides some preferred terms for select population groups; these terms attempt to represent an ongoing shift toward non-stigmatizing language. 

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