"Person First" Addiction Language


Often, people who are referring to others who have a substance use disorder, are unsure of exactly how to do so in the “right way”.  What do you call someone who has an addiction?  There is an appropriate way and an inappropriate way to address people with a substance use disorder. 

Here is a list of terms that are considered “person first addiction language”.  

Say This

      1. Person with a substance use disorder (SUD)
      2. Person with alcohol use disorder
      3. Person in remission from a SUD
      4. He/she is abstinent from alcohol/drugs
      5. Baby with neonatal withdrawal syndrome
      6. He/she is substance free
      7. He/she tested positive for illicit substances
      8. Testing negative for substance use
      9. Person in recovery
      10. Being intoxicated, being under the influence
      11. Return to use
      12. Intravenous drug use/using intravenously
      13. Undergoing a detoxification treatment, withdrawal management treatment

Instead of This

        1. Addict, junkie, crackhead
        2. Alcoholic
        3. Former addict
        4. He/she has a drug problem, drug habit
        5. Addicted baby, crack baby
        6. He/ she is clean
        7. He/she “tested dirty”
        8. Has a clean drug screen
        9. Former addict
        10. Getting high/stoned
        11. Relapse
        12. Shooting up
        13. Being in rehab/detox


For more information on person first addiction language, please click here.

BrightView by the Numbers

Treating addiction is complex.

It requires empathy and understanding. 100% of our Patient Access Specialists have been personally affected by addiction. Some are in long-term recovery, so they understand what patients are going through.

We treat our patients right.

The quality of our patients’ experience, proves that we respect them and treat each patient as an individual. When surveyed, our patients consistently rate their experience a 9 out of 10.

Less than 4 hours.

For patients in withdrawal, our average time to appropriate Medication Assisted Treatment (usually buprenorphine) and completion of the first counseling session is less than 4 hours from walking in the door.