Addiction is a medical condition.
Avoid terms that reinforce a belief that addiction is a failure, rather than a medical issue. Try “substance use” and “substance use disorder” instead of “substance abuse” or “addict.”
Put people first.
Describe people, not conditions or behaviours. No one is defined only by their illness or condition. Try “person who uses substances” instead of “addict.”
Be positive and respectful.
Language can convey optimism, support recovery and respect a person’s right to make their own decisions. Some examples are "substance dependency recurrence" instead of "relapse" or "person in long-term recovery" instead of "former addict".
Be clear and precise.
Slang can have negative connotations and may have stigma attached to it. Some examples of less biased terms include “positive” or “negative” when referring to drug tests, instead of “dirty” or “clean.”
Reach out and make a difference.
BC Lions linebacker Bo Lokombo talks about the positive impacts of reaching out and showing support.
Difficult conversations are where we grow the most.
Former BC Lions quarterback Travis Lulay talks about having meaningful conversations with family about substance use.
Keep the conversation going.
Trevor Botkin tells his personal story and how he's working to help others have challenging conversations.
Starting a conversation
Before you start to talk, make sure you’re ready. Do you know what you want to say? Do you both have enough time to talk? Are you ready to listen?
It can be as simple as “Hey, how are you doing? You seem a bit different recently,” or “Is there anything you want to talk about?” You know the people in your life best—you may find a different approach works better.
Listen without judgement
When you care about someone, it can be hard not to start by giving advice or sharing your opinions. But it’s important to give people the space to talk about what they’re going through. Try to stay calm, open and compassionate while you hear them out.
Don’t interrupt. Let them know you’re listening by acknowledging what they’re saying or confirming things aloud—“So you’ve been going through this for a couple of months?” or “I’m sorry you’re under so much stress.”
Encourage action and offer support
If a person you care about is struggling, let them know that they’re not alone. Ask questions like “What is the best way I can support you?” And remember, there are services available and people who want to help.
Follow up and be there
During the conversation, make sure to share ways that the person you’re talking with can reach out later—make sure they have your phone number or email, or let them know when you’re around for another chat.
Follow up later to see how things are going and ask if you can help.