Language is defined as a collection of universally accepted sounds and symbols intended to express specific meanings, stated the researchers, a group of Harvard and Cambridge psychologists who promote the establishment of an addiction-ary.
“The language used to describe health conditions reflects and influences our attitudes and approaches to addressing them,” surveyors wrote. “Even to the extent of suggesting that a health condition is a moral, social or criminal issue.”
“[Language] can change the context,” said Virginia Mann, a cognitive science professor at the University of California, Irvine and psychologist who specializes in language and addiction. “By calling it a problem, you’re casting it in a certain way, as opposed to calling it a phenomenon, which is much more useful.”
Language can manufacture stigma, and according to the World Health Organization, illicit drug addiction is stigmatized as the number one largest “social problem” in 14 countries out of the study, which included 18. Addiction clinicians acknowledge that addiction is not a social issue, rather a medical one deemed as a chronic brain disorder.
But, according to Mann, there is a problem with that as well. “Once we call it a disease, the idea of medication comes in,” she said, referring to the paradox of treating an addiction with drugs. “It isn’t like diabetes. It isn’t like polio. It’s a susceptibility, a mental illness as well.”
A statement from the Obama Administration examined studies that showed how the expression ‘substance abuser’ tended to lead to more punitive measures than ‘someone with a substance use disorder.’
Using ineffective terms to describe addiction has a long history. “The use of the word ‘sin’ was popular in certain religious persuasions during the prohibition era,” Mann said. “The medical model is not perfect, but it’s in vogue right now.”
The expression ‘getting high’ is also inaccurate when referring to addiction because it doesn’t take into account that individuals with addictions are actually escaping withdrawals, and not simply achieving the euphoria once provided by the drug.
“Terms like ‘abuse’ create an implicit bias that results in punitive judgments that may perpetuate stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals suffering from addiction,” the study stated.
White House Officer of National Drug Policy Michael P. Botticelli and Harvard doctor Howard K. Koh released a statement saying that pejorative words such as ‘junkie,’ ‘addict’ and ‘crackhead’ are not only harmful but inaccurate. They stated that the terms… (continue reading)