The use of person-centered language in scientific research articles focusing on alcohol use disorder

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18 Scopus citations


Aims: Worldwide, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most common substance use disorders, yet often goes undertreated. One major barrier that prevents adequate treatment of AUD is the high stigmatization the disorder receives, including from the scientific community. Thus, we evaluated the current use of patient-centered language (PCL) among AUD-related, journal publications. 

Methods: This cross-sectional analysis included a systematic search of PubMed AUD-related articles from May 2018 to April 2020. All journals with 20 or more AUD-related, PubMed indexed items with human subjects and available in English were included, resulting in 3445 articles from 49 journals. A random sample of 500 publications were screened and examined for inclusion of pre-specified, non- PCL terminology. 

Results: After excluding editorials and commentaries, 292 were retained. We found 59 (20.1 %) publications adhered to PCL. Among articles with non-PCL, labeling occurred in 198 (67.8 %) articles, and emotional language implying helplessness was identified in 123 (42.1 %). We found no difference in PCL adherence with journal ranking nor authorship guidelines requiring AMA/ICMJE adherence. 

Conclusions: Our investigation showed that a majority of current AUD literature does not conform to PCL standards. PCL carries a positive connotation and is recommended by multiple professional groups. In continuing the shift toward reducing stigma and increasing advocacy for individuals with AUD, it is necessary for the sources of information that guide clinical practice adhere to PCL. This study is not intended to impede the autonomy of individuals to label themselves or influence terms purposefully used in support programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108209
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Addiction
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Person centered language
  • Person first language
  • Stigma


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