The term‘addict’has a diverse range of meanings, some of which may be personal to individuals who may regard themselves and describe themselves as ‘addicts’. It may also be used in ways which are dehumanising, disempowering and stigmatising.

Some people find identifying as an addict helps them better understand their own experiences and more able to describe or explain these experiences, and their situation, to others. In this sense, for some people, at certain times, the term addict can be personally empowering.

However, the term addict may also be used in a way that is offensive or derogatory. It may be used in a way that is dismissive of the detail and personal aspects of a person’s situation and so be dehumanising. It may be used to ‘sum up’ someone in a single word in a way that is disempowering.

The term may be used as a label to categorise someone in a way that implies that they cannot develop or change themselves and be supported by others to change. When used in this way it may mean that people are not helped or supported by individuals or by services.

For some people, the term may be viewed as simplistic and overly clinical – sounding like a diagnosis of a disease.

The term may be regarded as too imprecise, describing a huge range of people with different life experiences who may have little in common. On the other hand, other people may feel that there are commonalities between ‘addicts’ that are suggested by describing them as such. However, these commonalities may be inaccurate or stigmatising and lead to unhelpful and stigmatising generalisations.

The term is also open to interrogation as to whether it is a valid term at all as it depends on the notion of addiction (see addiction; see disease model; see drug, set and setting).