Pediatricians across the United States encounter infants, children, adolescents, young adults, and families affected by substance use disorders in their daily practice. For much of history, substance use has been viewed as a moral failing for which individuals themselves are to blame; however, as addiction became understood as a medical disorder, clinical terminology has shifted along with a growing awareness of harm of stigmatizing language in medicine. In issuing this policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joins other large organizations in providing recommendations regarding medically accurate, person-first, and nonstigmatizing terminology. As the first pediatric society to offer guidance on preferred language regarding substance use to be used among pediatricians, media, policymakers, and government agencies and in its own peer-reviewed publications, the AAP aims to promote child health by highlighting the specific context of infants, children, adolescents, young adults, and families. In this policy statement, the AAP provides 3 specific recommendations, accompanied by a table that presents a summary of problematic language to be avoided, paired with the recommended more appropriate language and explanations for each. Pediatricians have an important role in advocating for the health of children and adolescents in the context of families affected by substance use and are optimally empowered to do so by avoiding the use of stigmatizing language in favor of medically accurate terminology that respects the dignity and personhood of individuals with substance use disorders and the children and adolescents raised in families affected by substance use.
PEDIATRICS: Recommended Terminology for Substance Use Disorders in the Care of Children, Adolescents, Young Adults, and Families