June 13, 2017 |
News & World Report: Is Calling Someone Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol a Substance ‘Abuser’ Harmful?
By Ruben Castaneda, Staff Writer | June 12, 2017 featuring Recovery Research Institute Director Dr. John F. Kelly
Could referring to a person as a substance “abuser” hurt his or her chances of getting treatment and becoming sober? Does saying someone abuses alcohol or drugs unnecessarily stigmatize that person and affect the way some medical professionals view him or her?
A growing number of medical professionals think so, and they’re working to change some of the traditional lexicon of addiction. Dropping the use of stigmatizing language “can save lives,” says Dr. John F. Kelly, director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and associate professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School. Labeling someone with a drug or alcohol addiction an “abuser” suggests that person is voluntarily misusing those substances, rather than struggling with a disease that involves their brain chemistry, Kelly says. Such language “could suggest willful misconduct, which some people believe should be punished, not treated,” he says.