A is for Addict?

January 17, 2013

As a writer, I wish I could in good conscience use this word. It’s snappy and convenient. It would be so handy. But it is also toxic.

It promotes an us-and-them mentality that divides people into “addicts” and “the rest of us.” By branding more than twenty million Americans with a single label, the treatment community has given people the wrong idea, that everyone struggling with these problems is basically the same. The stigma has become a barrier discouraging many people, especially people with less severe problems, from getting help.

“Addict” is a label, not a diagnosis (you won’t find it in the DSM), and generally speaking labels do more harm than good. A particular person may choose to identify as an addict, or not. That’s the point. It’s different for different people. I respect people’s right to articulate their experience in their own words, but I don’t perpetuate the stigma, I don’t reduce their problems to a stereotype, I don’t presume to “explain” anything with this unscientific term, and I certainly don’t force people to “admit” anything.

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