Changing the Language of Addiction

addiction

When people think or talk about people living with addiction, words often are used that can be pejorative. Names like “crackhead,” “junkie,” “dope fiend” and “lush” are commonly used to label those with substance use disorders. The list goes on ad infinitum. While many of the names used to describe those living with life threatening mental health disorders have a history, and they are often spoken without offense being taken, the use of such monikers only serves to fuel the fiery stigma of addiction.

The Language of Addiction

Both researchers and advocates suggest that if we are to continue breaking down the stigma of addiction, it requires that we change how we talk about the illness, The Boston Globe reports. They are calling for the use of medically accepted terminology when talking about substance use disorders because pejorative words like “abuser” discourage people from reaching out for help.

“The biggest thing we trade in is hope,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, Massachusetts Chapter President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Our biggest enemy is hopelessness. That’s why I think language matters a lot.”

Standardized Communication About Addiction

For the first time in American history, we have a Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who is himself in recovery. Michael Botticelli would like to do away with words to describe addiction that have negative connotations, and standardize federal communication about addiction, according to the article.

“For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves,” said Botticelli. “Words have to change so attitudes change.”

He points out that saying someone is “clean” from drugs, implies that active drug use is dirty, the article reports. He adds that: “We don’t say for a diabetic whose blood sugar spikes that they have a ‘dirty blood sugar.”

Choose Your Words Wisely

Removing stigma can begin with an intervention. Substance abuse interventions are to be carefully planned and facilitated by an interventionist who might also be a licensed counselor or social worker. Typically the meeting is held in a private, neutral location where all family and friends who are participating can feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns. The interventionist coaches the group to choose their words wisely and to present a united front in the form of rehearsed, straightforward messages about the facts of the problem and its impact on others. An intervention is not about creating guilt trips or placing blame. It is about being firm and compassionate conveying the consequences that have resulted from addiction and share the group’s desire for the addicted individual to make positive changes.

Promoting positive changes can be the first step in removing stigma!

What is National Recovery Month?

recoveryDespite the continued fight against prescription opioid and heroin abuse in the United States which continues to take people’s lives every day, it has arguably been a good year so far for substance use disorder prevention and addiction recovery. In 2015, the President has already pardoned a number of people for lengthy drug related prison sentences, including some who were serving life sentences. Steps have been made to provide greater access to clean needles and the life saving drug naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

All of the aforementioned measures reinforce the prevailing idea that addiction is a disease that requires treatment, not imprisonment. It shows that more people are beginning to understand that people can recover and lives can be saved if we, as a nation, are willing to dismantle the stigmas and misconceptions that have long accompanied addiction.

What is National Recovery Month?

Every year, the month of September is National Recovery Month. Throughout the month, addiction and mental health recovery events are held with the help of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). This is a time when people working a program of recovery and the vast number of people who work in the field of recovery receive recognition for their achievements.

September is an opportunity to reach out to and educate those still in the grips of addiction, letting them know that recovery is possible and addiction is nothing to be ashamed of. Events will be taking place all over the country and everyone who would like to learn more about recovery is welcome.

The President is for Recovery

President Obama made a Proclamation that September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!”. Please read the full Proclamation below:

NATIONAL ALCOHOL AND DRUG ADDICTION RECOVERY MONTH,
2015

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Every day, resilient Americans with substance use disorders summon extraordinary courage and strength and commit to living healthy and productive lives through recovery. From big cities to small towns to Indian Country, substance use disorders affect the lives of millions of Americans. This month, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all those who are seeking or in need of treatment, and we recognize the key role families, friends, and health care providers play in supporting those on the path to a better tomorrow.

This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!” It encourages us all to do our part to eliminate negative public attitudes associated with substance use disorders and treatment. People in recovery are part of our communities — they are our family and friends, colleagues and neighbors — and by supporting them and raising awareness of the challenges they face, we can help eradicate prejudice and discrimination associated with substance use disorders, as well as with co-occurring mental disorders. Prevention and treatment work, and people recover — and we must ensure all those seeking help feel empowered, encouraged, and confident in their ability to take control of their future. Americans looking for help for themselves or their loved ones can call 1-800-662-HELP or use the “Treatment Locator” tool at www.SAMHSA.gov.

My Administration remains dedicated to pursuing evidence-based strategies to address substance use disorders as part of our National Drug Control Strategy. Seeking to widen pathways to recovery, our strategy supports the integration of substance use treatment into primary health care settings and the expansion of support services in places such as high schools, institutions of higher education, and throughout the criminal justice system. In the wake of public health crises related to non-medical use of prescription drugs and heroin in communities across our Nation, my Administration has pledged considerable resources to help Federal, State, and local authorities boost prevention efforts, improve public health and safety, and increase access to treatment in communities across the country. And the Affordable Care Act has extended substance use disorder and mental health benefits and Federal parity protections to millions of Americans.

Behavioral health is essential to overall health, and recovery is a process through which individuals are able to improve their wellness, live increasingly self-directed lives, and strive to fulfill their greatest potential. During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we reaffirm our belief that recovery and limitless opportunity are within reach of every single American battling substance use disorders, and we continue our work to achieve this reality.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2015 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

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If you or a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

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