Magazine article Addiction Professional

Words Can Hurt the Cause

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Words Can Hurt the Cause

Article excerpt

As someone who caught the writing bug from the first exposure (an extra-wide red pencil and a sheet of paper with spaces a barge could navigate were the first tools of my trade), I have never doubted the power of words. The language we use can educate, even elevate. Too often in the substance use field, though, words inflict damage.

Our cover story explores the language of the substance use treatment field and how commonly used terms can perpetuate stigma and discrimination. In issuing a January memorandum urging executive-branch departments to consider revising the language commonly used in their communications, former national drug policy director Michael Botticelli left his final mark among many noteworthy accomplishments.

I interviewed the Massachusetts resident and Boston sports fanatic for this article in February, on what for him was a euphoric morning after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cemented his gridiron legacy. It might surprise some that a national drug policy leader who put a human face on recovery and had a major hand in the growing support for treatment sees changing the lexicon as his legacy issue. But Botticelli says a look toward the field's colleagues in mental health clearly illustrates how eliminating pejorative language can play a direct role in securing a community's place at the table.

If you're not sure if words really matter, consider this: When was the last time your general practitioner looked at your test results and told you, "Your blood work came back dirty"? …

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