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The Importance of Language When Discussing Addiction

Whether it’s substance abuse, pornography addiction or another form of the disease, addiction recovery is a difficult and sensitive time for those going through it. The mental and even physical changes that take place as we try to kick some of the toughest conditions the body can undergo are significant enough to heavily impact many people.

At Renaissance Ranch, we understand that the handling and care of people in such a vulnerable state is vital. Our programs focus on providing comfort and understanding in the place of confusion and anger. As such, we recognize the importance of using the proper language when describing addiction recovery – here are some of the key factors to consider here.

Moral Judgement

We may not consciously mean it this way, but many of the common terms used in certain areas of addiction are actually placing a damaging moral judgement on the person being labeled. Words like “addict” and “habit” imply a problem with willpower or conscious choice, and downplay the medical nature of the addiction.

An “addict” is subconsciously someone who is morally weaker than a non-addict. Even the term “abuse” can neglect the medical aspect of addiction, though this term has become largely accepted in the field due to lack of alternatives.

Stigma Added

Many of the words we use can also add an unfair stigma, even without us thinking about them that way. When you ask someone struggling with addiction recovery whether they’re “clean” or “dirty,” for instance, you’re attaching a stigma to the latter of those terms – being clean is good, being dirty is bad. While this is true in a final sense, the emotional swings these kinds of labels can induce are not healthy and don’t contribute to successful recovery.

Changing Language

Based on calls from professionals in the field, language is changing for many forms of addiction, especially drug and alcohol addiction. The goals here are to both reduce stigmas and judgements and bring more commonality within the professional addiction treatment field.

The word “addict” is being replaced by softer terms – saying that a patient is a person with a heroin addiction gets the same message across, but implies strongly that the patient is a person first, and struggling with a medical condition (addiction) second. Terms are also being more medicalized as we learn more about how addiction affects the brain, which will help bring a shift away from stigmatizing language.

For more information on the proper terms and understanding of addiction recovery, or to learn about our treatment programs and what they can do for you or a loved one, speak to the friendly guides at Renaissance Ranch today.