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The Language of Addiction

Letter to the Editor – Boston Globe

RE: A start, but not a solution, for ‘Methadone Mile’ originally published June 22, 2017.

Please stop referring to people as addicts! The 2017 Associated Press Stylebook includes guidelines on how journalists ought to refer to people with a substance use disorder.

The editorial, A Start, but not a Solution, for ‘Methadone Mile’ published in The Boston Globe on June 22, unfortunately uses language that is different from the way the Globe would refer to a person with any other treatable illness. As journalists you are well aware of the power of words. Your phrase, “helping addicts get clean” reinforces the idea that people with a substance use disorder are somehow dirty and immoral.

I encourage your editorial staff to read the article, Changing the Language of Addiction by Michael P. Botticelli and Howard K. Koh, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (October 4, 2016 Volume 316, Number 13). You should also read the letter written by Vic DiGravio, President and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, to the Boston Herald’s editor on June 8. In which, he urges the elimination of the derogatory term “Methadone Mile” to describe a neighborhood that includes medical services for people who are living with this chronic illness.

This ongoing stigmatization will continue to affect people’s willingness to seek treatment when they need it. Do the right thing and change the way society views individuals who are living with or in recovery from addiction.

~Laurie Adelstein, Occupational Therapist, Riverside Community Care



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