No use for the word ‘ad­dict’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Ideas Lab -

I learned some­thing while at­tend­ing my daugh­ter’s grad­u­a­tion from Yale’s Pri­mary Care In­ter­nal Medicine Res­i­dency pro­gram.

In his clos­ing com­ments, the pro­gram di­rec­tor thanked the fac­ulty for train­ing the grad­u­ates to main­tain their hu­man­ity as they de­vel­oped their clin­i­cal skills. One com­ment stood out. He thanked one of the doc­tors for oblit­er­at­ing the word “ad­dict” from their vo­cab­u­lary. This caught my at­ten­tion and I later asked my daugh­ter to tell me more.

She ex­plained that they have been trained to speak of pa­tients as hav­ing ad­dic­tions or ad­dic­tion disor­ders — just as they would speak of a pa­tient with any other ill­ness. For ex­am­ple, we say a pa­tient has heart disease or can­cer. Now when she hears some­one re­ferred to as an “ad­dict” her stom­ach turns. She un­der­stands how this la­bel can strip away one’s hu­man­ity, cre­ate a frame­work of pre­con­ceived judg­ments and di­min­ish the care­giver’s com­pas­sion.

Al­though the Jour­nal Sentinel can be ap­plauded for its cov­er­age of the ad­dic­tion crises across the com­mu­nity and state, I, too, now cringe when I read the word “ad­dict.” Per­haps it is time for out­stand­ing jour­nal­ism to catch up with best med­i­cal prac­tices.

Mary McCormick


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