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

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12 Scopus citations


Background Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) affects approximately 1% of the population. Despite the prevalence of OUD, it remains a highly stigmatized disorder. Using person-centered language (PCL) - and thereby emphasizing the significance of the person rather than their diagnosis - is a potential strategy to reduce stigma in medical research related to addiction. Thus, we aimed to determine adherence to PCL in OUD-related publications according to the American Medical Association’s guidelines. Methods We performed a systematic search for articles published between January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020 using the PubMed database. Articles were randomized and screened until we reached 300 articles that met inclusion criteria. Three-hundred articles were screened to meet this goal. Articles were then screened for non-PCL terms, determined a priori. Results The majority (240/300; 80 %) of OUD-related publications were not adherent to the AMA guidelines on PCL. Additionally, the use of emotional language (i.e. suffer, afflicted, etc.) was employed in 48 % (145/300) of articles. Stigmatizing terminology was found in 73 % (218/300) of the OUD related articles in this study. Our study demonstrated a statistically significant correlation between senior author affiliation and adherence to reporting guidelines (i.e., PRISMA, STROBE, etc.). Conclusion A majority of OUD-related publications are not adherent to AMA guidelines on PCL. Language used in these publications is often repeated and replicated in medical education and clinical practice, which directly impacts patient-provider relationships. PCL-adherent language is a tool that both medical researchers and clinicians can use to combat stigma that individuals with OUD may experience.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - 2021


  • Opioid use disorder
  • Person-centered language
  • Person-first language
  • Inclusivity
  • Inclusive language


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