Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 97 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

Don't Call My Dad the "A" Word: Language matters for people seeking help in the battle against addiction

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert Weiner
Become a Fan
  (4 fans)

Article originally published in The Washington Times

By Jessica Hulsey Nickel with contribution from Robert Weiner

(Jessica Hulsey Nickel's father, the title subject of the piece written by Hulsey Nickel, died with a heroin substance-use disorder.)

September is National Recovery Month. We are facing an epidemic in America. Over 50,000 people a year die from drug overdoses, 144 a day. President Trump recently declared it an "emergency."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 33,000 persons last year died from opioid overdoses. Opioid overdoses -- not just heroin, but prescription pain medicine, fentanyl and carfentanil sold and used illegally or legally -- have quadrupled the last two decades. Drug overdose deaths are now more than from car crashes, equal to 17 times the deaths on 9/11.

Growing up, I heard many people call my dad the "A" word--an addict. In reality, he was a brilliant man and the father of two girls. He played guitar, could fix anything that ran on electricity, and had a debilitating medical condition called a substance-use disorder -- a heroin addiction. He died much too young at the age of 48.

When addiction hits your family, it's like being hit head-on by a Mack truck. It's sleepless nights filled with worry, it's desperate googling, it's dead-end streets, it's isolation. And for those that have lost someone--a son, a daughter, a mom, a dad--it's unimaginable pain. But unlike the support that erupts when other medical issues hit our neighbors--say cancer or Alzheimer's--where are the offers for help, the casserole dishes, the warm cookies, "thinking of you" cards and potluck fundraisers?

Our own biases and foul language contribute to this isolation. When words are used inappropriately to describe individuals with a substance-use disorder, it not only negatively skews cultural perceptions of their disease, but also feeds into the stigma that can stop people from seeking help, can stop people from going next door with that casserole dish. Using "addict" to describe someone struggling with a substance use disorder ignores the science and discredits the individual.

Much of the terminology used to describe addiction is disparaging--suggesting that addiction is a result of moral/personal failings, or that individuals choose to be addicted, or suffer a lack of willpower. As we know, addiction is a medical issue, and can be compounded by patient behavior just like many other illnesses, from type-two diabetes to heart disease and lung cancer.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), released in 2013, replaced the categories of substance "abuse" and "dependence" with a single classification of "substance use disorder." We need to align our dinner-table terms with the science--the doctors.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Robert Weiner Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Robert Weiner, NATIONAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND ISSUES STRATEGIST Bob Weiner, a national issues and public affairs strategist, has been spokesman for and directed the public affairs offices of White House Drug Czar and Four Star General Barry (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Why Do Conservatives Vote Against Their Own Interest?

Jeb Bush's Elephant in the Room: Role in Bush v. Gore Recount

Mueller's End Game: Maybe As Soon As Trump Wants, But Not How He'd Like

Food Stamp Myth Busting

Iran: Nuclear Weapons or Peaceful Energy?

Bad money vs. bad money -- how Denver ballot measure could be blueprint for getting money out of politics

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend