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A group talks about addiction

15 Jul How Our Words Affect Addiction

Language, and the words that we choose to address the world around us, have incredible power. Indeed, the entirety of society is built on the back of language and the ability to share ideas in coherent ways. As such, when we tackle problems that face our society today, we need to recognize that the language that we use has a profound impact on how those problems are viewed and addressed. Today, there is nothing that this phenomenon relates to more than our current addiction epidemic. Here are some of the ways that it is important to recognize how our language affects the wider conversation on addiction, substance abuse, and recovery…

Moralizing addiction has adverse effects

One of the most destructive ways that addiction has been framed by language in the past is when it has been viewed as a moral failure of the person who suffers from it. Throughout much of the 20th century, addiction in the United States was viewed from a moral lens, rather than a medical one. The language around addiction reflected this, and led to the alienation of millions of people over the years.

Moral language is, by its very nature, exclusive to a sort of ‘other,’ a person who doesn’t fit into the moral framework. This attitude led to the rise of addiction rates that we see today, and is the very reason that the language has changed so much towards something more productive.

Language changes the reaction

Right now, there is a multitude of things that need to happen to truly address our addiction epidemic. However, one of the most important things is to get as many addicts as we can into effective recovery programs. Every one of us has the power to be a force of good, in pursuit of this goal. The words that we choose to use to address addiction changes the reaction of addicts. Instead of demonization, choosing to recognize addiction as a behavioral disease that needs medical attention changes the reaction and promotes addicts to get help.

These sorts of narratives are incredibly important to address addiction, because they go further than any one action. A narrative has the ability to impact the opinions of entire communities, and a communal viewpoint of empathy and action is crucial to helping cure addiction.

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