This glossary was developed in partnership with the Peer Network of New York, a group of harm reduction support specialists who provide vital services including health education, testing (for HIV and Hepatitis C), harm reduction guidance, recovery coaching, and community outreach. They have lived experience and can relate to the community in a unique way, and are a crucial asset in building community health and well-being.
We created this glossary to provide guidance on language to avoid when talking about drug use and people who use drugs, with the intention of moving away from stigmatizing and dehumanizing language and toward people-first language that confers dignity and respect.
For people who use drugs, or who formerly used drugs, stigma can be a barrier to a wide range of opportunities and rights. People who are stigmatized for their drug involvement often face social rejection, labeling, stereotyping, and discrimination, even in the absence of any negative consequences associated with their drug use. This manifests in a variety of ways, including denial of employment or housing.
The public’s perception of drugs is often not based on scientific evidence. You can help end stigma by learning the facts about drugs, drug use, and evidence-based drug treatment and sharing the information with others. The way we talk about drugs and the people who use them can create or uphold stigma. Focus on the whole person, not a behavior.Visit DRUG USE GLOSSARY