THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2016
How to "talk" about addiction
If you have someone in your circle or family who is addicted to substances, this can get very fraught. It seems so intractable, so expensive, so avoidable--you may want to lash out at times.
But you have to remember, says addiction specialist Russell Surasky, Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction, that we have to become more sensitive to words that stigmatize. Addition is a disease, it lays waste to families and entire communities. Addiction is a chronic ailment that changes the structure and functioning of the brain.
We don't refer to people with physically apparent disabilities as spastics, cripples, or crazies, do we?
Shouldn't we regard addicts with respect and confer their dignity, too?
--Avoid words like crackhead, junkie and addict. People with cancer recover--we don't refer to them as ex-cancer patients. But we often say ex-addict. Instead use words like "person struggling with addiction," or "person with a substance use (not abuse) disorder."
--Avoid "drug abuse" and "substance abuse." These sound like child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse.
--The word addict labels a person...preferable is use of the word "addiction."
If you have this situation in your family, you know the person is not a weak crackhead or something--so let's clean up the language.