skip to Main Content
PA: 844-884-3929 FL: 1888PURPOSE
Let Us Call You
Insurance Friendly VERIFY BENEFITS Live Chat
Our Words Have Power: Substance Use Disorder Terminology

Our Words Have Power: Substance Use Disorder Terminology

As previous posts have noted, it is vitally important that we use humanizing, up-to-date language to describe the treatment and recovery landscape. Below is an introductory glossary of commonly used terms. We encourage incorporating them into your everyday conversations, both with people already immersed in this work, and those who are not yet as familiar.

Term

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Meaning of Term

This is the official term for the broad class of medical conditions which include alcohol use disorder, stimulant use disorder, etc. SUD terminology was first set forth by the reputable Fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V).

Importance of Term

There are two incredibly important reasons for us to use SUD terminology. Firstly, the up-to-date – and streamlined – definition in the DSM-V rests on a continuum of diagnoses ranging from mild to severe. This allows substance use disorders to be more specifically diagnosed and, in turn, appropriately treated. Secondly, this terminology does away with the word “abuse”, which carries with it deeply violent connotations. It is time that people in recovery are treated like people rather than dangerous outcasts of society. Using SUD terminology in everyday conversation is a critical step in that direction.

Term

Recovery

Meaning of Term

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recovery is defined as: “A process through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Importance of Term

Since so many of us are immersed in some aspect of the recovery world, it is vital that we share a common, accessible, and working definition. SAMHSA’s definition is supported by four major dimensions: health, home, purpose, and community. Read more about it here!

Term

Treatment

Meaning of Term

There are myriad forms of treatment available for substance use disorder. The basic mission of most treatment centers is to provide clinical and emotional support in the early stages of recovery. Life of Purpose uses an Existential Model (see below).

Importance of Term

Because of the wide variety of options, it is necessary to understand what different types of treatment seek to provide on a basic level. Here is SAMHSA’s introductory list and description of possible treatment services.

Term

Existential Model

Meaning of Term

Life of Purpose approaches treatment through this model, which begins with asking questions like, Why? Why have I misused drugs and/or alcohol in the past? Why should I choose to embark on this journey of recovery?

Importance of Term

Eric Bricker, the Clinical Director here at Life of Purpose, wrote a blog post explaining the vitality of the existential model. In it he quoted Viktor Frankl, an existentialist theorist, who summed up the reasoning behind approaching life – and recovery! – through this model: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with any ‘how’.” When those who are new to recovery are encouraged to ask themselves these more in-depth questions, it is nearly inevitable that their new roots will extend further, become sturdier, and be nourished by a greater sense of purpose and sustenance.

Term

Recurrence of Symptoms

Meaning of Term

It is time to replace the word “relapse” with the phrase “recurrence of symptoms”. These terms essentially refer to the same behavior, but they carry with them profoundly different connotations.

Importance of Term

When we talk about friends who “recur” or have a “recurrence of symptoms”, we frame their circumstance in a medically appropriate way. Holding onto outdated and judgmental terms like “relapse” keeps us stuck in a cycle of negativity rather than moving forward into the realm of empowerment.

Term

Referring to drug tests: Positive, Negative, Substance-free

Meaning of Term

These terms are an accurate, appropriate, and non-stigmatizing representation of test results.

Importance of Term

“Clean” and “dirty” are stigmatizing terms that inaccurately attach the success or failure of a person to the result of their drug test. In an attempt to be both medically accurate and humanizing, we can use far more straightforward language: positive or negative (or substance-free) test results.

As we work towards reducing stigma, now is the time to introduce the general population to the proper way to talk about all-things addiction, treatment, and recovery.

img

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryn Gallagher
Blog Contributor

Life of Purpose Treatment
3848 FAU Boulevard, Suite 100
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Admissions: 1.888.PURPOSE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back To Top