Substance Use and Substance Abuse-What's in a Name?

Christine L. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose What's in a name? Because the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, no longer uses the terms dependence and abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 2013a), does the continued use of these terms impact how issues related to at-risk substance use are presented in the literature? The purpose of this review is to explore the implications of the continued use of the term substance abuse in the clinical literature through the review of three articles published in 2015 that used the term substance abuse in the title. Review The use of the term substance abuse in the articles reviewed resulted in presenting a narrow focus on substance use disorders rather than the broader issues of harm that occur across the full continuum of substance use. In addition, the term "substance abuse" in one article lent itself to the use of pejorative language and stigmatization. Conclusion It is imperative that we stop using the term substance abuse in clinical articles, because it is no longer clinically relevant and presents a narrow focus of the risks associated with substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-50
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Addictions Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • stigma
  • substance abuse
  • substance dependence
  • substance use
  • substance use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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