Anti-stigma header photo

Put the person first

You can help save a life when you choose to say "person who uses drugs" instead of "drug user".

It may not feel like it, but you influence your friends, family, neighbours and co-workers.

When you call someone a “drug user” you contribute to stigma against people who use drugs in the Yukon.

What is stigma?

Stigma is any attitude, belief or behaviour that discriminates against people.

Most of us encounter stigma in our daily lives. We can also contribute to stigma against others without meaning to. We reinforce stigma with the words we use, how we treat others and how we see ourselves. People who use substances experience stigma in the Yukon.

There are different types of stigma


The negative attitudes, including internalized shame that people who use drugs have about themselves.

Social stigma

Members of a society disapprove of, or discriminate against, a person or group because they're different from the norm. Some examples of differences are a person's use of drugs or their race.

Structural stigma

Laws, policies and practices unfairly treat people who have lived and living experience.

Why stop stigma?

A significant barrier for Yukoners who use substances is stigma. It can prevent them from accessing services and getting help.

Stigma isolates and separates people who use substances or have substance use disorders. Stigma can make a person feel like their life does not matter. Each Yukoner can take small steps to make a big difference for people who use substances.

Reducing stigma can:

  • decrease the isolation families feel when they have a loved one experiencing addiction;
  • improve the quality of services offered in the territory;
  • encourage Yukoners experiencing addiction to seek help; and
  • help people be more productive and involved in their community.

Small steps. Big results.

Take action and find resources

Start with understanding

Everyone has a story. Each Yukoner has something that they’re carrying with them. Some of us carry traumas. Some people use substance to help them deal with their traumas. You do not need to know why a person uses drugs. Treat them with compassion. It can help them and their family members.

When you show compassion to a person who uses drugs it does not mean that you support drug use.

Compassion can start with small actions.

Use your words

Words to avoid: Addict, junkie, drug habit, drug abuse, drug abuser, substance abuse, clean drug test, dirty drug test, getting clean

Word to avoid


Words to use instead: a person who uses drugs, a person with a drug addiction, a person experiencing a drug or alcohol problem, a person who’s currently using substances, a person recovering from a drug addiction, a person in recovery

A person who uses drugs , A person with a drug addiction, A person experiencing a drug or alcohol problem •	A person who’s currently using substances •	A person recovering from a drug addiction •	A person in recovery
Find more words to say.

Get workplace training

When your workplace prioritizes a compassionate approach towards people who use substances it helps reduce stigma. This may benefit:

  • employees who use substances;
  • the family members of people who use substances; and
  • your clients and customers.

Taking a small amount of time for these discussions can have a big impact on someone – it may save their life.

Learn about substance use

There are many myths and misconceptions about substance use. Some people mistakenly believe that addiction is a choice. Addiction is complex and people develop addictions because of many interconnected reasons including:

  • events in life, especially trauma and chronic stress;
  • environmental factors;
  • mental wellbeing (including emotions, thoughts, feelings and mental illness); and
  • genetics and biology.

No one chooses to become addicted. Learn more about the Substance Use Health Emergency in the Yukon.

Get help

Spread the word

  • Download campaign poster: Person who drinks Beer
  • Download campaign poster: Person who drinks Coffee


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