Change the Name: End the Stigma

Senator Patty Murray, Senator Lamar Alexander, Representative Frank Pallone Jr., and Representative Greg Walden

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The words that we use matter. Stigma has been identified as a barrier to treatment and recovery among individuals with addiction. Research shows that the commonly used term, "abuse", increases stigma.

Now is the time to tell Congress that national government agencies with words like "abuse" must undergo a NAME CHANGE (e.g., National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA]), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]

Addiction is a disease. Using words such as "abuse" or "abuser" implies that addiction is a character flaw. It takes an act of congress to change a government agency name, so support is needed at all levels.

This petition was prompted by the recent brief authored by Dr. John Kelly and Valerie Earnshaw, PhD and published by the Society of Behavioral Medicine. The brief, entitled “End the Fatal Paradox: Change the Names of our Federal Institutes on Addiction” (attached).

This petition is led by Faces & Voices of Recovery and the Recovery Research Institute of Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital. Endorsed by: American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry [AAAP], American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], Association for Multidisciplinary Education and Research in Substance use and Addiction [AMERSA], American Public Health Association [APHA], Drug Policy Alliance, Harm Reduction Coalition, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Prevention Science Coalition [NPSC], and Shatterproof.

#ChangeTheName @recoveryanswers @facesandvoices


Your letter will be delivered to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where policies are made regarding federal institutions.

Sponsored by

To: Senator Patty Murray, Senator Lamar Alexander, Representative Frank Pallone Jr., and Representative Greg Walden
From: [Your Name]

I urge Congress to take action and change the names of the federal agencies with the word “abuse” in them. This includes the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and related federal institutions. These agency names should be replaced with more neutral and non-stigmatizing terminology.

Exposure to the terms substance “abuse” and substance “abuser” has been shown to increase stigmatizing and discriminatory attitudes toward individuals suffering from drug and alcohol problems both in the general population and among clinicians.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, numerous medical and public health societies (e.g., the American Society of Addiction Medicine), the International Society of Addiction Journal Editors, and the Associated Press have all advocated against the use of the term “abuse” and “abuser”, according to a position statement released by the Society of Behavioral Medicine in July 2020, endorsed by a host of national organizations, which can be read here: https://bit.ly/3fqctsv.

This position statement further describes the need for Congress to take action stating, “paradoxically, this stigmatizing terminology remains embedded in the very titles of our major federal institutions and administrations whose explicit and central clinical and public health mission is to alleviate these endemic problems.”

A federal act of congress is required to change the names of federal agencies, and we, the undersigned individuals and organizations, urge Congress to act now!