International Recovery Month Awareness
1. Substance use and dependency
Each person will react differently to a substance, meaning they could experience different effects or short or long term harms. There are many different theories which look at substance use and dependency, such as a disease model, learning and behavioural theory and socio cultural theory, among others.
It can be hard to identify just how a person will react to a substance, but we can look at
- The substance – the type of substance and how it is used. substances will have different effects, but all have the potential to lead to habit forming behaviours
- The set – this means the persons starting point, how they are physically and mentally, gender, age, culture and reasons for use
- The setting – where, when, with who, stress levels and what supports are available
We also know that some people may be at greater risk of harms, such as people with underlying mental health concerns, those who have experienced trauma or people from marginalised communities.
Dependency to a substance can be defined as “not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you”.
To help reduce stigma, one thing we can all do is stop using stigmatising language and start to use the preferred terminology by people who use drugs and those who are in recovery. It can be best to ask people how they wish to term their own use or recovery to be sure.
To help reduce stigma in society, always use person centred/person first language. Stigmatising language reinforces negative stereotypes.
Person-centred language focuses on the person, not their substance use. It is a simple and effective way to show you respect a person’s agency, dignity and worth.
Ask a person if they want to be defined as a person in recovery or how they would prefer to reference the topic.
See recommendations on using appropriate terms in the UISCE guidelines here
Authors: HSE National Social Inclusion Office, Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers and Recovery Academy of Ireland