The word “addict” has been around since the 1500s and comes from the Latin word “addictus,” meaning “assigned, surrendered.” The way we talk about addiction is changing, which means that the word needs to change, as well. has recently updated the definition of “addict” in order to destigmatize people who are suffering from addiction. 

The Harm of Calling Someone an “Addict”

Drug and alcohol addiction used to be considered a moral failure, demonstrating a weakness in character. The same has been said for people who struggle with alcoholism, in that they used to be called a “lush” or “dipsomaniac,” which have been replaced with “alcoholic.” The problem is that the word “alcoholic” is still an offensive noun. Many people right now are afraid to do something about their alcoholism or addiction, out of fear of being labeled with these disparaging names. Having an addiction is the only medical condition where you are punished for something bad happening to your body. For people who are facing the battle of recovering from addiction every day and still have to deal with being called an “addict” it is dehumanizing and might cause them to give up on their efforts.

Help From the Medical Community

People in the medical field are able to recognize addiction as a disease because it is a chronic condition based on brain changes. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) with new language that removed the words “abuse” and “dependence” in relation to addictive substances. In 2017, the Office of National Drug Control Policy directed all of its federal agencies to use the language that adheres to the DSM-5. Several other organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine followed suit, as well.

Help From Newsrooms

In 2017, the Associated Press added an entry to its AP Stylebook to avoid the use of words like “abuse,” “problem,” “abuser,” and “addict.” They believe these words emphasize the person and not the disease, which can provide a barrier in seeking treatment. In spring 2018, the Philadelphia Media Network decided to stop using the word “addict” as a noun after the AP’s recommendations and requests by local health officials. Even food writers make sure not to describe their food as “addictive” or “like crack.” It is best to describe someone struggling with addiction as “a person with, or suffering from, addiction or substance use disorder.” 


The words you use can have an impact on a person’s decisions. Labeling someone as an “addict” or an “alcoholic” is defining that person by their addiction. These names are what is making the stigma of addiction bigger and bigger. At Alta Loma’s transformative treatment center, we not only sympathize with those struggling with addiction, but we take action to help that person. We treat all of our patients with equal respect and integrity. Our experienced team can come up with a comprehensive treatment plan, created specifically for you. We can treat your substance abuse issues through methods such as 12-Step programs, individualized therapy, life and coping skills education, therapeutic recreational activities, structure and stability, full psychiatric assessments, and much more. Words like “addict” and “alcoholic” can prevent a person from seeking treatment. Our job is to encourage it and dedicate ourselves to keeping you sober. For more information, please call (866) 457-3843 today.