Professionals working in the health, education and justice sectors can dramatically reduce the impact of stigma by reconsidering how they think about people who use alcohol or other drugs (AOD) and choosing words that focus on people, rather than their AOD use.
The right words can reduce stigma, which is a very real and complex problem. It can make people who use or have used alcohol and other drugs feel unwelcome and unsafe and stop them from seeking the services they need, negatively impacting their health, wellbeing, employment and social outcomes. The right words have the power to improve health outcomes.
This guide is designed to get positive conversations started. Use it to understand commonly used terms that have negative connotations and identify practical alternatives that are welcoming, inclusive and empowering.
This collaborative project was undertaken by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, the Association of Participating Service Users, Harm Reduction Victoria and Penington Institute and funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.