Substance Use Disorders

The word addiction conjures up many stereotypical images that generally are not helpful to those suffering from substance use disorders or one of the process addictions. The word addiction itself carries a certain amount of stigma-inducing images. Stigma is simply an attitude, belief or behaviour that discriminates against people. Stigmatizing language affects how people are seen and treated and can lead to feelings of shame and worthlessness for those who experience difficulties with addiction and substance use disorders. 

Stigmatizing language identifies people with substance use; it diminishes their value and dehumanizes them. If shaming had the power to heal, we would not need therapists. Ultimately stigma causes barriers to treatment, stigma discourages people from seeking help, and stigma affects the quality of care people receive. 

A shift in language and understanding is crucial as we seek to treat individuals. Every person is endowed with fundamental value and worth. You can significantly impact the world for good simply through how you choose to see yourself and others. Everyone you see is a brother, a sister, or a neighbour, regardless of their medical, financial, or housing conditions. You can learn more about substance use, stigma, and discrimination at

Addiction, C. C. (2019). Overcoming Stigma Through Language: A Primer. Retrieved from Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction:


substance use disorders