A Valley News Publication

AP (whose stylebook is like our Bible around here) released a whole lot of updated style guidelines on addiction, alcoholic, drugs, naloxone, opiate vs. opioid and related content, which, (1), is a commentary on the breadth of the opioid crisis in and of itself, and (2), a step in the right direction, particularly related to this section:

Avoid words like alcoholic, addict, user and abuser unless they are in quotations or names of organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Many researchers and organizations, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the International Society of Addiction Journal Editors, agree that stigmatizing or punitive-sounding language can be inaccurate by emphasizing the person, not the disease; can be a barrier to seeking treatment; and can prejudice even clinicians. Instead, choose phrasing like he was addicted, people with heroin addiction or he used drugs.

The damaging effects of stigmatic language came up a lot during the week-long Recovery Coach program in Lebanon in January, where regular community members, including people with addictions themselves, are trained to help other people battle their addictions. Language is powerful, and media has a big impact on language, so I’m glad AP took this step.