Experts call for an “addiction-ary” to change the way people talk about addiction

describe the individuals “solely through the lens of their addiction or implied personal failings,” instead of addressing their mental illness.

“Language defines what your thought structure is around something,” Mann said. “People debate whether there is thought without language. It ties into how you approach your recovery. Language affects your behavior. If you say it is a disease, then it is something bad in you. How the individual views themselves because of their addiction; am I a bad person or a good person? Those views are very effective to recovery. Lots of people fall into the path of ‘I’m bad, so I’m going to be really bad.”

The key is finding the balance between holding the individual responsible for their choices, Mann said, and acknowledging that they are often driven to drugs by other factors out of their control. “Choices are hard because you need someone to realize their own involvement. They’re escaping a bad situation. That’s why they made the choice they did. [Language] certainly frames what you do. How you talk about it is certainly going to affect how we think about addiction.”

Education is needed to change the way addiction is addressed, and perhaps an addiction-ary can be a valuable educational tool. “You want to include all of [the words] because people use them,” Mann said. “I think you have to give some sort of context. You want all the terms, but you want descriptions for them.”