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NYS OASAS Using Person First Language Stigma Glossary

Language is a powerful tool. The words we use can affect the way people receive and perceive our message. Our words can convey support, understanding and encouragement, but can also cause harm and create barriers to treatment and recovery. In an effort to end stigma surrounding addiction and those who use substances, NYS OASAS strongly encourages the use of person first language when discussing addiction or substance use disorder. Person first terminology focuses on using language that reflects we are all people first. For example, calling someone an ‘addict’ is dehumanizing and links a substance use disorder to a person’s individual identity. The person first approach is nonjudgmental and does not define a person by a health condition. NYS adopted “Person First” legislation in August 2007, requiring the use of ‘person first’ language.