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Throughout time, society has painted an incredibly negative light on people with mental illness, people that use drugs, and people that go through treatment and recovery from addiction. These ill stigmas only make discussion and conversation surrounding mental health, addiction, and drug use more complicated. 

Society also neglect’s to realize that these stigmas produce a ton of miseducation. Instead of viewing a person with mental illness or addiction as someone that is struggling and needs assistance, society paints them as the problem. 

It is essential to address and challenge the harmful language that is associated with the topics of mental health and mental illness, drug use, addiction, and recovery. It is important that we continue to work toward a society that encourages treatment and recovery when mental health distress is prominent. We must bring awareness to the negative connotations that are used to refer to these topics and promote reliable education that can make these conversations less judgmental. 

Negative Connotation of Language Used Towards Drug Use

If you were to search what the definition of a drug is, you would find that a drug is any substance that has a physiological effect on the brain and body when consumed or otherwise introduced to the body. 

If you were to search what the definition of a drug user is, you would find that drug use refers to any scope of illegal drug use. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the term “drug user” to describe a person that uses any medicine or substance that can produce a physiological effect on the brain and body?

One can already see the negative connotation attached to the term “drug user”. If the term defined a person that uses drugs, then “drug user” would be able to be used more generally. 

Many people don’t realize that caffeine is a drug- a stimulant found in your morning coffee. If the term drug user was used without a negative connotation, than any person who drinks coffee or even uses prescription medicine for mental health would also be considered a drug user. 

Although there are potential consequences when it comes to any kind of drug use, it is important that society learns to talk about drug use in an unbiased way. This can make people more willing to ask about harm reduction tools, become educated about drug use and abuse, and utilize treatment and recovery resources.

Understanding Harmful Language When Talking About Addiction

When working to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and recovery, there are several terms to bring awareness to that can stigmatize those that are struggling. 

Stigma is a form of discrimination against a specific group of people, place, or situation. Stigma about people that struggle with addiction or substance use disorders are likely to create inaccurate thoughts as if these people are dangerous, at fault for their condition or incapable of going through treatment. 

Some of the most common, harmful terms used for a person that struggles with addiction include:

  • addict
  • alcoholic
  • drunk
  • mentally-ill

These are harmful terms because they assume that a person is the problem instead of them having a problem, which can make the process of recovery even more difficult. These terms elicit negative associations and blame the person instead of blaming their condition. 

Instead of using these terms to describe someone, it is important to label a person’s identity first. For example, consider using “a person with a substance use disorder”, “a person struggling with addiction”, or “a person struggling with mental illness.”

A person should not be defined by their disease or condition, instead, it is something that they have. Their identity should always come before their condition. 

Addiction is a disease- it is important that society relies on using language that frames it as a health issue while showing respect and autonomy to the struggling person as well as their families. 

Why It’s Important to Talk About Drug Use, Addiction, and Recovery

There are several different reasons why it is important to talk about these topics, with the first and foremost being that it helps people to utilize recovery. 

When a person struggling with addiction is approached by a loved one with concerns about their drug use, the struggling person will likely get defensive regardless of the language used when expressing concerns. Maybe they have yet to acknowledge their drug use as an issue or are struggling to admit that loss of control. 

But when concerns are given without any stigma, bias, or negative connotation attached, a struggling person is much more likely to seek and accept help. Talking about mental health indeed helps recovery, as it helps the people get the education and support they need to heal beyond their mental illness or addiction. 

There is no question that the stigmas surrounding drug use, addiction, mental health, and recovery continue to affect the lives of those that struggle. It is essential that we work to recognize and challenge the negative connotation of language that is used towards people that use drugs or struggle with addiction. Using harmful language towards those that struggle assume that the person is the problem instead of the fact that their problem is their condition. West Coast Recovery Centers recognizes that society continues to paint these topics in a negative light. We know that struggling with mental illness or addiction is already challenging enough. Our treatment facility is here to provide intimate and compassionate care for our clients. We are dedicated to guiding you towards a sustainable recovery- one that everyone deserves. For more information about our treatment facility, or for more about stigma, give us a call at (760) 492-6509 today. 

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