COMMENTARY: Please curb use of the term ‘addict’

by Jan 17, 2019OPINIONS





Recently, I made a post in regards to our syringe exchange program, and I was respectfully corrected when using the term “addict”. I removed that word and took some time to think about it.

I understand why we need to refrain from using that word when directing to someone who is in recovery. We have an epidemic on our hands, and this is not a problem that is going to be solved by government or program alone. It’s going to take more than just funding and services.

It’s going to depend on all of us in how we address these issues, but sometimes we have to go back to the basics. If you fail at something, are you a failure? No.

But, if someone labels you as a failure, will that most likely affect you, and your self-confidence? Most likely, yes.

We have to be mindful in how we address those who seek recovery. They are people just like us. They may have not chosen the right path, but they are just as human as we are.

Not all addictions are the same, and not every addiction comes with the same core problem. There’s a story for everyone, and it doesn’t always involve drugs and/or alcohol.

Labeling creates stigma and shame. When you call someone an “addict” or “alcoholic,” it is shaming and can be a barrier to treatment. People with addictions often have underlying difficulties with how they view themselves and are sensitive to the judgment of others. Labels that are stigmatizing stop people from reaching out for help, and this stops them from working on the shame that probably underlies their addiction in the first place.

It’s clear that the language we use around addiction is powerful, and when used incorrectly, it can leave individuals with an addiction feeling powerless. We need to change the way we view addiction, how we label addiction, and how we treat people with addictions. We can do this by using person-first language and offering people choices in treatment.

Words matter, and they can be powerful.

I believe in empowering people to make positive changes in their life, rather than making them feel powerless and ashamed of their addiction. I want you to get honest with yourself about where you’re at in your life right now. And I’m not just talking about the addiction. I mean every aspect of your life, in particular those aspects that have led to and maintained the addiction. Those are the areas that need to be addressed before you can start recovery.

Those who seek recovery need our help while they get help, and we have to empower them to believe they are bigger than their problems, and their past. That they too, have a brighter future ahead.