In an effort to combat stigma, many researchers and clinicians now use “person first” terms such as “person with opioid use disorder” instead of loaded labels like “addict.” But most of the research on the best language to use for this population has focused on the perspectives of treatment providers and the general public, and to a lesser extent on people in long-term recovery.
Now, the first study to ask people who use heroin what they want to be called, co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher, finds that language preferences in this population vary by context and who is speaking.
The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that people entering treatment for heroin use most often called themselves “addicts,” but preferred that clinicians or researchers say “person who uses drugs.” Nearly universally, they did not want to be referred to with slang terms such as “junkie,” and many expressed dislike for language suggesting misuse or dependence.
“In the end, researchers, clinicians, and families should not automatically use the same terms that people who use heroin call themselves, but instead should ask about preferences,” says senior study author Dr. Michael Stein, professor and chair of health law, policy & management at BUSPH. “Of course, most people just want to be called by their name.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on August 02