There has always been a fine line between defining addiction as a medical condition and a moral weakness or spiritual malady. The medical community itself has struggled in defining addiction for years, partially because we are still researching the environmental and genetic causes of the disease. The Big Book of AA defines alcoholism as a medical condition and a mental obsession. This seems to place the onus both on the mind of the person afflicted, but asserts that the body itself is falling victim to a disease outside of its control, to an extent.
Because of this discrepancy and the challenges faced with defining alcoholism and addiction as a disease and/or a spiritual malady, coupled with the fact that the scientific community is still researching and learning about addiction, there have been some problems labeling addicts and alcoholics for quite some time. One recovering addict explains in an NPR article, “When will they stop reducing us to mere “addicts” and speak of us more in the “person first” language that has become common for other people with diseases and disorders?”
Thankfully, some of these questions are now answered, due to stylistic alterations and language changes brought to us by the Associated Press. Last week, the new AP stylebook has written that the word “addict” should no longer be written as a “noun” and “instead,” it says, “(we should) choose phrasing like, he was addicted, people with addiction, or he used drugs.” In other words, the AP separates the term “addict” from the disease and affliction itself. No longer will the “addict” be defined solely by his affliction.
Is this just political correctness run amok, or it a step in the right direction towards addressing addiction and the disease that it inflicts upon people in a scientifically correct manner? Many would argue that by treating the “addict” (in the old sense of the word) separate from his “disease” (addiction), we are negating the responsibility that the addicted person himself has to maintain and achieve sobriety. In other words, is it really fair to use “someone with an addiction” in the same manner that we would say, “someone with cancer?” In essence, the AP is claiming that defining an addicted person by his or her disease, or as “an addict”, it is akin to calling someone with cancer “a cancerous person”. For many, this comparison may be a tough pill to swallow.
On the other hand, many view this stylistic change in describing those suffering from addiction as a step in the right direction from both a sensitive and scientific standpoint. According to the NPR article, “widespread media misunderstanding of the fundamental nature of addiction has led to some deadly misconceptions about how it should be managed.” Because the AP provides news to over 15,000 news outlets around the world, the way that they define addiction could very well help to promote treatments and drug policy by removing the stigma regarding addiction. In other words, if we are taught to refer to addiction as merely as a “disease” and not a “moral failing”, then perhaps the medical community will begin to take it more seriously and research treatments that actually work.
Both views have their pros and cons. Though most of the medical community defines addiction as a disease, there is an element of choice in addiction that is undeniable. Nobody forces someone to take a drink or use a drug, the person him or herself makes that decision on their own. Unlike cancer, the disease of addiction is not just inflicted upon someone without some sort of partaking by the addict himself. Of course, there are dependent drug users who, through no choice of their own, became addicted to narcotic drugs due to surgery and debilitating pain.
Nobody disputes that once addiction takes hold of someone, the power of choice begins to wane. Yet the addicted person is still responsible for making the decision to get treatment for their addiction. And once they receive treatment, there is no scientific ailment in the body that prevents one from full recovery. The ailment appears to be a mental one, as unfortunate as that sounds. And it is a moral choice that one addict must make everyday to use the necessary spiritual and physical tools available to refrain from drug and alcohol use.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this stylistic change affects this various news outlets and perhaps alters the view that many have of addiction and addiction treatment in general. Just 100 years ago, many addicts were sent to insane asylums or sanitariums for their disease; most deemed hopeless causes with a weakness for flesh-driven pleasure. Now, thanks to the medical community, education, and linguistic alterations, there has been a softening approach towards the public’s perception of addiction.
Do you or someone you know suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Are you concerned of the effect it is having on your relationships, job, and family? Don’t wait to get the help you need. Contact Linda Rose at 949-558-4723 today and start your roadmap towards recovery now.