The Words Matter Pledge

Illustration of a diverse group of people standing together and hugging

I understand that the language I use relating to addiction is important. I believe that words matter and that using the right language helps decrease stigma. I will choose language that leads to more effective treatment and compassionate support in families and communities for those with substance use disorders.

I pledge to:

  • Treat all people with a substance use disorder with dignity and respect.
  • Talk about substance use disorder as a chronic illness, not a moral failing.
  • Be a leader in reducing stigma and promoting recovery from this disease.

Sign the pledge

Words to Use and Not Use

Instead of these stigmatizing words and phrases... Try these preferred alternatives
  • Substance abuse/drug abuse
  • Substance use disorder
  • Drug habit
  • Addiction
  • Abuser
  • Substance abuser
  • Drug abuser
  • Addict
  • Alcoholic
  • Drunk
  • Junkie
  • User
  • Person with a substance use disorder
  • Addicted baby
  • Babies exposed to opioids
  • Problem
  • Risky, unhealthy or heavy use
  • Clean (person)
  • In recovery
  • Clean (or dirty) toxicology results
  • Negative (or positive) toxicology results
  • Substitution therapy
  • Replacement therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Medication for opioid or alcohol use disorder

The Johns Hopkins Words Matter Pledge is adapted from a similar campaign at Boston Medical Center led by the Grayken Center for Addiction.