HUNTINGTON – Local recovery experts and English professors suggest the general public move away from disparaging slang when speaking about addiction, encouraging them to adopt everyday language that addresses it as a medical condition and shows more conscious of recovery efforts as well.
The Associated Press Stylebook, a reference guide designed for members of the media, now suggests reporters move away from the noun “addict” as the subject person’s sole identification – a conscious change in language that anyone can make.
Lyn O’Connell, clinical director at Marshall University SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment), explained that when a member of the media, or the general public, refers to someone as “an addict,” it belittles that person’s existence to simply their disease.
Instead, a “people-first” approach – referring to those suffering from addiction a person first with their disease secondary – puts the real lives of “addicts” into a more dignified perspective befitting of fellow humans, she said.
“It’s easier for us to talk poorly about an ‘addict’ than the mom of three kids who used prescription painkillers, got addicted, and has now lost her house and custody,” O’Connell said. “A human is something you have to feel something toward, while the addict is just something over there like an inanimate object.”
Instead of phrases like “addict,” “junkie” or “user,” experts suggest using language centered on the person rather than the addiction, such as “a person struggling with addiction” or “someone with a substance use disorder.”
This also applies to infants suffering from neonatal addiction syndrome, rather than “drug baby.” In addressing addiction as a disease, O’Connell advised using “substance use disorder,” the correct medical term for what’s commonly shortened to addiction.
The AP’s change in language guidelines comes from a point of…