‘Words Matter’ When Addressing Addiction

It is common knowledge that addictions carry a negative stigma. That, of course, should not be the case, but it is an unescapable fact as many (incorrectly) assume that a dependency is a choice and not a disease. Sadly, hurtful words are often used to describe people struggling with substance abuse and they can sometimes drive a person even further into despair. We certainly feel that it is important to be mindful of the way you address these situations and applaud the news site New Market Today for helping to call that out.


A recent New Market article touched on the various stigmas and derogatory words often associated with addictions. Many of these can create shameful feelings for the person struggling, making them regress and become hesitant to seek out recovery help (due to the fear that they’ll be chastised even more).


The first portion of the article focused specifically on stigmas and did a nice job categorizing them into three broad segments. Segment one is labeled as a Social Stigma, which encompasses the negative attitudes and behaviors people feel from others when talking about their substance abuse issues. Structural Stigma is the second category; which accounts for healthcare providers and first responders not taking a person’s dependency seriously. And then there is the Self Stigma, which is the critical voice people apply to themselves; thinking they are “less than” because they have a problem.


The other section of the article delves a little deeper into these topics, defining the actual words that perpetuate these stigmas. Terms like “junkie”  or “pill popper” can do a lot to cut people down. Even the word “addict,” for example, stirs up painful feelings and can be deemed insensitive. A proper alternative term for someone in this situation can simply be, “person with a substance abuse disorder.”


The New Market article made a point to include some firsthand perspective on these hurtful terms. Recovery rep and former alcoholic Natalie Harris was quoted in the piece, sharing her experiences with “insensitive words” and how, for a long time, these stigmas held her back from receiving proper treatment.


“The words we use when we talk about people who use drugs and alcohol can be impactful and can either create barriers or a bridge for access to services,” she explained. “We have the choice to use language that provides dignity and respect. Together, we can make a difference.”



Photo Gallery