Changing the Language of Addiction

The JAMA Network recently published an article by Michael Botticelli (Director, ONDCP) and Howard Koh (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), entitled "Changing the Language of Addiction".

"Words matter. In the scientific arena, the routine vocabulary of health care professionals and researchers frames illness1 and shapes medical judgments. When these terms then enter the public arena, they convey social norms and attitudes. As part of their professional duty, clinicians strive to use language that accurately reflects science, promotes evidence-based treatment, and demonstrates respect for patients.

However, history has also demonstrated how language can cloud understanding and perpetuate societal bias. For example, in the past, people with mental illness were derided as “lunatics” and segregated to “insane asylums.” In the early days of human immunodeficiency virus, patients were labeled as having “gay-related immune deficiency,” with public discourse dominated by moral judgments. Other examples apply to disability and some infectious diseases. In all of these cases, stigma and discrimination can arise when patients are labeled, linked to undesirable characteristics, or placed in categories to separate “us” from “them.”..." READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE