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Home > Language, substance use disorders, and policy: the need to reach consensus on an “addiction-ary”.

Kelly, John E and Saitz, Richard and Wakeman, Sarah (2016) Language, substance use disorders, and policy: the need to reach consensus on an “addiction-ary”. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 34, (1), . 10.1080/07347324.2016.1113103.

External website: http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07347324.2...

The language used to describe health conditions reflects and influences our attitudes and approaches to addressing them, even to the extent of suggesting that a health condition is a moral, social, or criminal issue. The language and terminology we use is particularly important when it comes to highly stigmatized and life-threatening conditions, such as those relating to alcohol and other drugs.

Scientific research has demonstrated that, whether we are aware of it, the use of certain terms implicitly generates biases that can influence the formation and effectiveness of our social and public health policies in addressing them. Such research has made it difficult to trivialize or dismiss the terminology debate as merely “semantics” or a linguistic preference for “political correctness.” Furthermore, given that alcohol and other drug-related conditions are among the top public health concerns in the United States and in most English speaking countries globally (e.g., United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland), this is no trivial matter. In this article, the authors detail the conceptual and empirical basis for the need to avoid using certain terms and to reach consensus on an “addiction-ary.”

The authors conclude that consistent use of agreed-upon terminology will aid precise and unambiguous clinical and scientific communication and help reduce stigmatizing and discriminatory public health and social policies.


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