What Is Person-First Language

person-first language

The Importance Person-First Language in Drug Rehab Centers

You may not have heard of person-first language related to addiction treatment. For many people it’s a whole new way of thinking and talking about addiction. So many people feel defined by the negative aspects of the addiction disease. It can feel dehumanizing. So Rehabs are now using different terms to empower healing for both clients and their families.

Language is a powerful tool that shapes how we perceive the world and interact with others, particularly in sensitive fields like addiction and mental health treatment. The words we choose can profoundly influence both the therapeutic process and societal attitudes. One area where this becomes especially apparent is the use of person-first language in drug rehab centers.

What is Person-First Language

Person-first language emphasizes the individual before the condition or disorder. Instead of labeling someone as an “addict,” we say “person with addiction.” This shift humanizes the individual and separates their identity from the addiction, which is a critical component of compassionate, evidence-based care. Even reputable drug rehabs consider person-first language as integral to the treatment process.

The Impact of Person-First  Language VS Disease-First

Stigmatizing language can have harmful effects, sometimes even deterring people from seeking the treatment they need. According to NIDA’s approach to addiction treatment, a key element of effective treatment is the acknowledgment of an individual’s unique needs and circumstances. Person-first language helps in making the individual more receptive to tailored, evidence-based treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).

Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

Person-first language is particularly vital when dealing with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. Labeling someone as a “person with addiction and depression,” for instance, allows space for a comprehensive treatment approach that considers the complexity of their struggles.

A Societal Perspective

Our choice of words can also have broader societal implications. The Monitoring the Future survey indicates that societal perceptions are connected to drug trends. By adopting person-first language, we can contribute to shifting societal narratives, reducing stigma, and encouraging more open dialogues about addiction and mental health.

Person First Language Is Crucial for Loved Ones and Professionals

For family members, friends, or professionals involved in someone’s recovery journey, it’s essential to use person-first language. Your words can either be a source of support or can perpetuate the individual’s challenges. Making the conscious choice to use respectful language is a straightforward way to engage in supportive, non-enabling behaviors.


Incorporating person-first language in drug rehab centers isn’t just a matter of semantics—it’s an ethical necessity. Such an approach is consistent with addiction treatment guidelines, advocating for compassionate, tailored treatment plans. As we aim to provide accurate, empathetic, and evidence-based information, it’s crucial to remember the power of language. Your feedback is invaluable to us, so please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

If you or someone you know is facing addiction, consult professionals for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment options.

Remember, recovery is an individual journey that is as unique as each person going through it. Let’s honor that journey, starting with the words we choose.

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