Maybe you’ve never thought about it, because it’s the language we use everyday. We’ve never thought we were hurting anyone before, because it was the social norm- expected of us. Well, not anymore.
New research released from the U.S.’s Drug Czar Michael Botticelli, in conjunction with Dr. John F. Kelly, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has proven the language we use to describe a person’s state of addiction negatively impacts their likelihood of receiving the medical treatment for addiction they need to live their lives without the tendrils of drugs and alcohol. Words like, “addict,” “dirty,” “alcoholic,” and “substance abuser” all have negative connotations, and perpetuates the notion those who are physically dependent on addictive substances are actively participating in a willful choice to be governed by them. It’s been proven long ago that addiction is not the result of a character or moral failing, but heralds definable roots in our genetic history and environmental surroundings. The only problem is, our everyday language does not reflect that.
The White House is striving to change the way the nation perceives those struggling with a “substance use disorder.” The CDC declared the term “substance use disorder” as the appropriate terminology to replace harmful labels like “drug addict” and “alcoholic.” In fact, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is working to comprise a comprehensive list of terms we should begin to use when describing persons in a state of addiction. You can find the list here on the Huffington Post. The theory behind reforming our everyday language is to encourage empathy, compassion, and the understanding substance use disorders are treatable diseases. When we embrace substance use disorders with the understanding treatment will rectify drug use and alcohol abuse, we will actively encourage victims of addiction to seek help, and not feel ashamed when reaching out for answers.