The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published in June its 2017 report on drugs. This report assesses drug use, trafficking and its dangerousness in Europe
For several years, people with addiction have been wondering when the media would consider their condition as a medical case rather than a moral problem; when they would no longer being called as "drug addicts", and when people would finally speak with them in a more respectful way as they do with other people suffering from diseases and other disorders ?!
An important step
The Associated Press newspaper has recently taken a major step in this direction. Indeed, the new AP Stylebook issue has announced that the word "addict" should not be used as a name. According to the book "It is necessary to use instead certain expressions such as:" He was affected by addiction, or people addicted to heroin or taking drugs." In short, trying to separate the person from the disease. The book also explained other important points of the language in order to achieve the maximum accuracy and minimize bias in coverage of addictions subjects.
Unlike many writing style aspects, these changes are not just rhetorical or corrective policies. The media misunderstand the essential nature of addiction, which has led to misconceptions about how to cover related topics. This book directs readers to "avoid certain words, such as a problem or physical abuse; these words can however be used provided they are preceded by a characterization that adds information such as dangerous, unhealthy or excessive, etc." Misuse is an acceptable word too. The book added that all dangerous uses do not include addiction, which has been explained to epidemiologists for decades, yet the press never noticed that.
The most important thing - as explained by the book - is that journalists should not use the term "addiction" as a word synonymous with dependance. In fact, the official diagnosis of addiction in the Guide to Diagnosis of Psychiatry in 2013 revealed that these two terms do not have the same meaning. The Associated Press did not explain the reason for the importance of this fact, it is for journalists and readers to understand it.
Dependence means relying on a particular substance to function normally. People who take certain medications for blood pressure, depression and addiction treatment will suffer if they abruptly stop taking them, but that does not mean they are addicted. On the contrary, addiction is considered a medical disorder characterized by compulsive drug intake despite bad consequences such as general weakness. While addiction is seen as a permanent problem, dependence may not be. Understanding this point is very essential.
However, the media have failed to understand these differences. As a result, there is an abundance of "addicted children" headlines, and this stigma itself contributes to a significant negative impact.
Language is seen as complicated and slow to change - and for the group that has been criminalized and fighting stigma and misunderstanding, the struggle continues. But when the media begin treating this addicted category in the same respectful way they use with other patients, and when we cover the addiction in the same way we cover other health topics, people might begin to accept the idea that addiction is only a medical problem and that the involvement of the moral side and punishment have failed to solve the problem of these people.