May 24, 2022

American Academy of Pediatrics Terminology Recommendations for Substance Use Disorders

Dr. Joanna Quigley co-authored a policy statement on the recommended terminology for medically accurate, person-first, non-stigmatizing substance use disorder terminology.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Substance Use and Prevention released a policy statement on the recommended terminology for substance use disorders.

Co-Authored by Joanna Quigley, M.D., the purpose of this statement is to provide medically accurate, person-first, and non-stigmatizing terminology for substance use disorders in the specific context of infants, children, adolescents, young adults, and families.

"This policy statement is needed, and being mindful of terminology is needed for many reasons. One reason is to remind providers that it is important to speak in clinically accurate ways, that reflect current knowledge/scientific understanding of substance use disorders." 

"It is also important for the families we work with, and the patients we take care of. There is already so much shame and stigma for folks around mental health concerns, but even more so for substance use concerns in themselves, or in their families. Being mindful of language allows us to engage with our patients and communities in a more understanding, empathic, and empowering way. It helps both the patient, their family, and their providers to feel that this is a challenge that can be addressed with evidence-based interventions, that there is hope, and that it does not define the value of the person." - Dr. Joanna Quigley

The policy statement is the first of its kind to be used among pediatricians, media, policymakers, and government agencies and in its own peer-reviewed publications. It provides 3 specific recommendations regarding medically accurate diagnostic terminology, person-first language, and terminology for use in the discussion of the treatment of SUDs. The policy statement also includes helpful examples of problematic language, and recommended language/terms along with an explanation for each.