Holly Jespersen


Today, Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the United States, released the Shatterproof Addiction Language Guide, which is a comprehensive tool aimed to highlight stigmatizing language, replacing it with person-first terminology. 

Stigmatizing language assigns negative labels, stereotypes, and judgment to certain groups of people. Such language can contribute to negative outcomes such as social isolation, reduced self-esteem, and less likelihood to seek medical help. Eliminating stigmatizing language is a core component of Shatterproof’s National Movement to End Addiction Stigma.

“Words matter and they hugely impact how those with substance use disorders are viewed and therefore treated. This can affect many aspects of an individual’s life from how they feel about themselves, how they are treated by healthcare professionals when seeking treatment, and from their family and friends whose negative language can generate discrimination and internalized stigma. It is important that we create a society where those who use drugs or those who are in recovery are viewed as a person rather than their medical condition or through their actions,” said Matthew Stefanko, Director, National Stigma Initiative, Shatterproof. 

The Addiction Language Guide was compiled after a thorough, in-depth review of the academic literature as well as existing language guides for mental and behavioral health. Common words such as “addict” and less common stigmatizing words such as “relapse” were compiled by Shatterproof staff. The guide gives recommended language and rationale, and it has been thoroughly reviewed by the National Academy of Medicine. The National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic facilitated an independent, blinded, and academically rigorous external peer review of the Addiction Language Guide on a pro-bono basis. The guide helps the public look deeply at the words they are using and examine the terminology they use when describing people who have a substance use disorder.

“The words become grenades—strategically spoken at times in order to do the most damage. And
when those words came from family and friends, they cut even deeper. These labels erased my humanity,” said Marissa Angerer, Shatterproof Ambassador and person in recovery. 

To download the Shatterproof Addiction Language Guide please visit, You may learn more about Shatterproof’s National Movement to End Stigma here

About Shatterproof:
Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the United States. Shatterproof harnesses the models of business, the rigor of science and the power of a national 
movement to create change and save lives through three pillars of work: revolutionizing the addiction treatment system, breaking down addiction-related stigmas and supporting and empowering our communities. To learn more visit

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