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Opioid Epidemic Conversation Requires Clear Communication

Opioid Epidemic - The Bergand Group

It’s too easy for a person to think of those suffering from an addiction as “them,” as opposed to “us.” It’s easy to draw lines between two groups of people and to think of them that way – as two different, divided, separate groups – rather than as an afflicted part of the whole. However, in the midst of this opioid epidemic, we can’t afford to think this way and absolutely must change the conversation in order to help those who need it.

Learning to Talk About the Opioid Epidemic

“Overdose occupies the top spot for leading cause of accidental death in the United States, claiming over 50,000 American lives for the third year in a row.” There can be no division between Americans made for fear that “we” might become like “them.” Anyone has the ability to suffer from an addiction, which means that anyone, and everyone, should be there to help those who are struggling. These are people that we know, our acquaintances and coworkers and maybe even loved ones, so it’s an absolute necessity that we band together to ease the burden for all of addicted America.

Who is to blame for the tone of these conversations in the past? At least in part: news outlets. Particularly in online articles, writers use sensationalized language to up the drama within these stories, and usually to “alienate and dehumanize” the people who have addictions. Like many people and sources, these stories contribute to the stigma that still exists and which surrounds people who have addictions. This is especially damaging during this opioid epidemic, since fighting with anything short of a united front will produce slow and sub-par results. If people believe that those with addictions “deserve it” somehow, or that they themselves could never “sink” to that point, then that divide will act as a major roadblock toward progress for recovery.

“Correctly talking about addiction means omitting sensationalism for more accurate narratives, avoiding stigmatizing language, acknowledging evidence-based solutions, and working to give faces and names to the vast number of fathers, mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, and neighbors affected by this sweeping public health crisis.” It may sound like a lot to do, but it’s completely necessary for us as a nation to be able to make serious progress on this front. We have to admit that everyone is at risk, and that those currently struggling are our fellows, people who need aid and empathy rather than stigma and disdain.

So, what are some tips for changing the conversation surrounding substance abuse? Language is at the forefront, of course, and we should all strive to avoid words that are inherently insulting, like “junkie.” Put them as a person first – “an individual with a substance use disorder” – so that they are thought of as a person first, and not as their disease. Similarly, words that call the usual stigma to mind should be avoided: “clean” or “dirty,” for example, have the kind of context that we want to eliminate.

The good news should be spread in order to promote hope and encouragement. “Substance use disorder is actually a good prognosis disorder, in that the majority of patients fully recover.” More than that, they’re able to lead normal lives and to get back on their feet. This is the kind of thing that we should be telling people above all else.

If you want to learn how to better change the conversation surrounding addiction during this opioid epidemic in America, 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.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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