A few weeks back we talked about how language can be particularly stigmatizing to people attempting to address issues of addiction of any kind. Now a new editorial in the journal Substance Abuse is discussing those same concerns that we shared. The article by Lauren M. Broyles suggests that phrases such as “addicts” and “junkies” can actually do a lot of harm to people trying to get help for their behavioral health issues.
The article suggests that when words like those mentioned above are used it can undermine people’s recovery. The concern is that these words lay the blame for a person’s behavior wholly at the feet of the person struggling with addiction. Other words discussed in the article are commonly used euphemisms like “clean” or “dirty” when discussing drug testing.
While the article does not suggest eradicating these words from the language of recovery altogether it does strongly caution everyone involved to read signals and understand how their words might be affecting a patient. The important thing to remember is that drug and alcohol addiction are illnesses that should be handled as such. Rather than placing the blame on someone in an alcoholism treatment program or drug rehab, you should be applauding their efforts to get an addiction under control.