How we talk about substance abuse matters in how successful addiction recovery will be. As we’ve said time and time again, addiction stigma will only increase until a time where there is widespread and educated discussion about the state of this epidemic. “More and more research on stigma is showing that words can truly be weapons that can hurt people and in ways that the users of those words may not anticipate.”

The Harsh Words of Addiction Stigma

It’s unfortunately true: words can be hugely detrimental to people who are trying to work through addiction recovery. Having others cast unnecessary and certainly unhelpful judgments can really undermine the progress that the person has managed to make thus far and could prevent them from being able to take those crucial first steps. All this is “especially true when those words serve to reinforce misconceptions and misrepresentations of already heavily stigmatized medical conditions.”

There are enough of these misconceptions to go around and they are given strength the more people believe in their truth. There may be a lot of different reasons for people to believe what they hear, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to cultivate these beliefs and it certainly doesn’t make it appropriate for them to use them as ammunition against those who are already struggling. Addiction stigma is more and more harmful as more people circulate it, and so it’s imperative that it be quashed as quickly and effectively as possible. Part of this is for everyone to learn how to discuss these issues without blind criticism and unkindness.

“There are several reasons for the evolution of language, but one important factor is simply new knowledge.” We have a lot of ‘new’ knowledge about addiction, about drugs, alcohol, and the mental and physical experiences of the people who develop abusive habits within them. That means we need to change our language as a result so that our conversations about these subjects and more can be more reflective of the truth, more accurate and less hurtful. At present, they are too easily undermining “our nation’s clinical and public health efforts to more effectively address this current crisis.”

Those in the public spotlight, like the former Surgeon General, have released statements calling for change within the nation, particularly from health care providers and those who have the power to write prescriptions. However, people in general have to change the way that they talk and think about these subjects so that, step by step, the addiction stigma is given less power to hurt those in addiction recovery who already have enough pain as it is. Addiction is not a moral or person failing and it’s antiquated that anyone should think so.

It can be difficult, even for those with good intentions, to determine what language is the most appropriate and what should be used. Many people argue over whether or not addiction is a “disease” and so there is a great deal of debate over the wording even within those who are more sensitive to how it should be discussed. Beyond these circles, it’s often talked about as if these patients are making the choice every day to continue living with an addiction when this is often far from the truth.

An addiction stigma may not seem like a big deal to those without addictions, but they can be extremely harmful to people in addiction recovery. If you know someone who could benefit from profession treatment, then contact The Bergand Group. We offer recovery programs for yourself or for others or are seeking education materials about addictions. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, including direction for those who may be denying an addiction.  We can help you to work through your addiction in a safe and healthy environment where everyone is committed to your care.

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About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.