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person with a substance use disorder / person with an addiction

alcoholic (adj.)

with an alcohol use disorder

alcoholic (n.)

person with an alcohol use disorder

alcohol abuse

alcohol misuse

drunk / boozer / lush / rubby

person with an alcohol use disorder

ex / former addict

person in (long-term) recovery


alcohol free, in recovery

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The words we use when talking about persons with an alcohol use disorder are important. Most of the words we see in the media and in social media assign blame, create shame and promote stigma. 

We will be asking the media to embrace change as they have in the past as they write about other disabilities. We would like to see all media transition to 'person-first' language, which separates the person from the disease and portrays alcohol use disorder as a chronic brain disease, not a moral failing. The worst language usually occurs in the headline, where strong language attracts attention. We are developing material for media workshops to assist them in understanding how the language people see perpetuates stigma against alcohol use disorder. 

Below, on the left, we offer correct words and phrases we hope people will start to use. On the right, we show you some of the worst examples we have found to date. If you see insensitive language, send us a link. We will be happy to contact the author and suggest they change their words.

End Stigma


This screen shot shows several examples of poor titles: 

'...alcoholic husband...' defines the relationship in the context of alcohol.

Better: '...husband who suffered from alcohol use disorder...' 

' a Drunk' is negative in every way. We asked AM640 to remove this title. It was.

Better: ' someone with an alcohol use disorder?'

'...alcoholics to be dry' defines a human being an an alcoholic; 'dry' portrays a negative image

Better: '...someone with an alcohol use disorder to be alcohol free...'

Examples of poor language

This title is terrible. It defines a boy and his mother (inferred) as alcoholics, not as human beings. In addition, it suggests to readers that every person whose parent(s) suffer from alcohol use disorder will automatically inherit the same disease. 

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