I recently learned my friend's daughter has a heroin addiction. I'm doing everything I can to support my friend. However, I have no experience with addiction and I'm not sure if I'm saying the right things. I don't really know what to say. Is there anything I can do to better support her during such a difficult time?
Dear Supportive Friend,
It can be very challenging to support the family and friends of an individual living with an addiction. One simple thing you can do right now is to think about the way you talk about addiction and individuals with substance use disorders. Using nonjudgmental, "person first" language will help to reduce the stigma associated with this disease. That stigma is often what keeps people from reaching out to get the help they need. Words like addict or druggie can perpetuate negative perceptions. Instead, you would want to say, person with a substance use disorder. See below for more examples:
Say this, not that:
Person living in recovery, not ex-addict
Person living with an addiction, not battling/suffering from an addiction
Person arrested for drug violation, not drug offender
Positive drug screen, not dirty drug screen