passages malibu, addiction treatment, the stigma around the word addict

Letting Go of the Word ‘Addict’

The word addict carries with it a stigma that the possibility of overcoming of drug dependence is somehow impossible or unobtainable.  One of the key philosophies of the treatment offered at Passages Malibu maintains that the underlying causes of addiction drive substance abuse and dependence.  Transformation is a matter of locating and healing those causes.

Applying the word addict to someone prevents the possibility of transformation or redemption. It’s a label implying that the person in question somehow is their problem, rather than their problem existing as an aspect of a more complex and nuanced individual.

The kind of consideration and sensitivity needed to empower an individual over their substance dependency is lost when the word addict is applied.  Thus, one of the key phrases of the 12 Step program — “once an addict, always an addict”—rings false with many people seeking a more fulfilling understanding of their dependence issues.

Some people find the word addict offensive, a far too-easy shorthand that, despite the availability of more progressive terminology, continues to be used in popular culture.

In a recent blog post for the Drug Policy Alliance, Meghan Ralston said, very eloquently, “Please do not destroy the totality of who I am by reducing me to that one word.”

There exist many alternatives to that word including; a person struggling with drugs/alcohol, a person in recovery, or an individual currently dependent on drugs or alcohol.

These phrases, while a bit clunky, do allow for the possibility of transformation, which many people seek in treatment or therapy.

Individuals in treatment or recovery are not bad people, even if they have made regrettable choices along the way.  By finding more humane ways to discuss and engage with individuals seeking treatment, the restorative potential of recovery is far more likely to secure an uplifting and meaningful future.

Resolving to stop using drugs or alcohol is a key moment in the beginning of transformation.  Once that choice is made, assessing and beginning treatment to heal the underlying causes of addiction can begin.  Passages offers a variety of addiction treatment options, tailored specifically to the individual needs of each of our clients.  Labels don’t apply to the treatment program because the level and strategy of treatment administered varies directly with the individual admitting.

However, by using problematic labels like the word addict, the possibility of healing is limited by language that seems to cast behavior in a permanent light. While some people have found success using the 12 Steps, others who are still looking for a more effective approach would be off to a great start simply by stepping away from useless labels.

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