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I have translated drug addict into German. There are four translations I found:

  • Drogengebraucher
  • Drogensüchtiger
  • Drogenabhängiger
  • Rauschgiftsüchtiger

From my online research it seems that Drogenabhängiger is the most common word, followed by Drogengebraucher, Drogensüchtiger and Rauschgiftsüchtiger.

Is there a difference between them? Is one of them more formal? Is one of them colloquial?

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    Please remove "Drogengebraucher". This is not a proper or commonly used term. I've never heard it and it sound rather "plump". – Thorsten Dittmar Oct 30 '16 at 14:55
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    To confuse you even more: in Germany we also use the term Junkie to (colloquially) denote a drug addict. – PerlDuck Oct 30 '16 at 15:12
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    @PerlDuck: Aber nicht für Alkoholiker. – user unknown Nov 1 '16 at 6:17
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    Why should the OP remove "Drogengebraucher"? This is what he found when researching. If the term is unusual, or should only be used in very specialized contexts, this is a piece of information which belongs in an answer, not in a comment criticizing the question. – rumtscho Nov 1 '16 at 11:26
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    'Drogengebraucher' would not translate to drug addict in my opinion, but rather to 'drug user'. Not everybody who uses drugs is addicted! – Gasp0de Nov 16 '16 at 20:35
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Official (legalese) jargon would be

Betäubungsmittelkonsument"

The law against drug trafficking is called the

Betäubungsmittelgesetz

and doesn't even mention "Drogen".

Police and other officials might refer to "Betäubungsmittel" (drugs) as BTM only.

And you could easily use "Konsument" together with "Drogen" as well:

Drogenkonsument

Which doesn't necessarily imply addiction. This seems to fit your term best, IMHO.

  • In police jargon etc., ‘BTM’ (also written as ‘BtM’ or ‘Btm’) can be used in compound words, too (e.g. ‘BTM-Konsument’, ‘BTM-Missbrauch’, or ‘BTM-Handel’). In radio communication, however, the corresponding police code might be preferred (e.g. ‘116’ in Lower Saxony). – Loong Dec 1 '16 at 13:24
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I would say that the difference is not that much a matter of formality, but a matter of representing one's attitude to the person in question. An exception is "Rauschgiftsüchtiger". "Rauschgift" is a less modern term and sounds stilted. "Drogen" is the word you will find in common use. Note that, in difference to English, "Drogen" always has the connotation of either "illegal drugs" (most common usage) or "psychoactive substances" (you could argue that caffeine is a "Droge" in this sense, but you will need quite an explanation around it to get people to agree to this usage). It is never simply a "prescription drug" without abuse potential in the sense that in English, a statin is a drug to lower cholesterol.

Out of the three "Drogen-" terms, I would say that, from negative to neutral, they are "Drogensüchtiger", "Drogenabhängiger" and "Drogengebraucher". "Sucht" and "Abhängigkeit" both translate as addiction, but "Sucht" has moralistic roots, with the connotation of "not being able to resist temptation". "Abhängigkeit" is the term more likely to be connected with today's prevalent scientific view of addiction as a medical problem.

"Drogengebraucher" is not something I have encountered before, and seems to be a direct translation of "drug user". Although rare, it might be a better term in many contexts, because it does not make the assumption that the user is addicted. Scholars and activists have long tried to focus more attention on the actual nuances of drug-use-related problems, and to combat the ignorant attitude that all illegal substances are somehow the same, with equal mechanisms of action and outcomes. The choice of weird words like "Drogengebraucher" is thus a political decision, rather than a linguistic one.

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    I would not even consider „Gebraucher“ to be proper German. – Carsten S Oct 30 '16 at 13:33
  • @CarstenS: How about DrogenVERbraucher? – Tom Au Oct 30 '16 at 13:41
  • @CarstenS yes, that's why I called the word "weird". Still a word for the concept of a "drug user" which makes no assumption about addiction is needed for the relevant discourse, so we might see either "Drogengebraucher" or some other equivalent enter the language, and then it would become accepted due to familiarity. To make an analogy, I'm sure that there was a time in history when a German speaker would have told you that "Hinterzieher" is not a word, but today everybody knows what the Steuerhinterzieher is. – rumtscho Oct 30 '16 at 13:44
  • @TomAu, I don't think so. Drogennutzer works. – Carsten S Oct 30 '16 at 13:45
  • Wie kann der Term, der keine Abhängigkeit unterstellt in manchen Fällen die bessere Übersetzung für drug addict sein? Das ist doch widersinnig. Außerdem gibt es viele Bereiche, in denen sehr wohl legale Drogen wie Alkohol selbstverständlich auch als Drogen bezeichenet werden, ohne umständliche Erläuterung. Für die Behauptung Sucht hätte moralistische Wurzeln sähe ich auch gerne einen Beleg. – user unknown Nov 1 '16 at 6:28
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addiction is Sucht, often use as a synonym for Abhängigkeit (dependency).

An addiction is something you actually don´t need, but something that you want so much you can´t think of anything else (figuratively).

If you are dependent of something, it means that you really need it (to accomplish something - like survival).

But actually, there´s rarely made a difference between the two.


btw: I´ve never seen Gebraucher, rather Konsument.

  • The distinction between "Abhängigkeit" and "Sucht" is a bit different. "Abhängigkeit" means the person is addicted to a physical substance, for example illegal drugs. The term "Sucht" is broader, including behavourial problems like compulsive gambling, where no physical substance is involved. But you're right that this distinction gets rather blurred in laymens speech. – Henning Kockerbeck Dec 1 '16 at 12:01
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    @HenningKockerbeck Your comment implies you couldn't be "abhängig" from gambling. I don't think that's true. There is "körperliche" und "seelische" Abhängigkeit, and both can apply to, for example, gambling. – tofro Dec 1 '16 at 21:25
  • @tofro That's at least the classic definition I learned many years ago. One can be "spielsüchtig" or "heroinabhängig", but not "spielabhängig". The portal Onmeda, for example, uses that definition. But according to Wikipedia the terminology changed over the decades. At times, "Sucht" was practically banned in favor of "Abhängigkeit", "Missbrauch" or variations of "Gebrauch". Currently there are discussions to re-establish the term "Sucht". – Henning Kockerbeck Dec 1 '16 at 22:45

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