Changing the Language of Addiction

Posted on August 2, 2017

Changing the Language of AddictionWhether you realize it or not, the things you say have the power to influence others in good and bad ways. The words you choose make a difference. Far too often, the language used when talking about addiction is negative and can be condescending. No one wants to develop a substance use disorder, but drugs and alcohol have a powerful effect on the brain and body. Fortunately, there is effective treatment available to help people overcome addiction and build a brighter future in recovery.

However, how people talk about addiction and recovery can sway others’ decisions. Referring to people as addicts, alcoholics, junkies, or other similar terms can keep them from seeking treatment. It can increase shame and embarrassment because these terms are generally viewed very negatively. A person is not their addiction. That is only one part of their life. They have so much more to offer. Use person-first language that helps to separate the person from the disease, such as:

  • A person in active addiction
  • An individual with a substance use disorder
  • A person with a drug or alcohol problem

Other terms that can have a negative connotation include habit, abuse, and clean/dirty. Calling drug or alcohol use a habit makes it seem as though the person has control over their actions and it is a matter of willpower. It is not. Addiction changes the way the brain processes information. Misuse is a more neutral term than abuse, and testing can be described as tested positive or tested negative, rather than clean or dirty.

Creating a more recovery-friendly environment and language can help to break down stigmas and barriers surrounding treatment. Addiction is a major problem throughout the country, but there is help available. Rehab facilities such as Ascension Treatment Centers provide clients with the individualized care they need to overcome drug and alcohol use and build a healthier future. Treatment focuses not only on physical health, but also mental, emotional, and social well-being.

Clients are treated with respect and spoken to in a recovery-friendly language. Families and communities are encouraged to adopt this people-first language as well. Much like diabetes or high blood pressure, addiction is a condition that can be managed. With the right treatment and support, clients can maintain sobriety and reduce risk of relapse. Addiction does not discriminate and can affect anyone. The terminology used to discuss it should convey a positive message that recovery is possible and that people are not their addiction.

How You Can Help

Think about how you speak about addiction and what message the words you choose express. Make a conscious effort to use recovery-friendly language and encourage others to do the same. Your words matter. As more people adopt positive changes regarding the language of addiction, others will follow suit. This can help to break down barriers and make others feel more comfortable seeking treatment and discussing their recovery journey.

Ascension Treatment Centers creates a safe space for recovery where clients feel valued and respected. They receive comprehensive addiction treatment that is tailored to their individual needs and promotes long-term recovery.