The words we chose to use can have the power to perpetuate the cycle of substance abuse, to keep others in a prison of their addictions.
This is why Words Matter is the theme of the 2017 National Addictions Awareness Week, a campaign of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addictions.
“CCSA is committed to ensuring those with substance use disorders receive the timely care they need from our healthcare system, at the same level and quality as those with any other health condition. Using language that accurately portrays what the research has taught us is crucial. I hope this year’s NAAW will serve as a reminder moving forward. People suffering from a substance use disorder matter. Addiction matters. Words matter,” said Rita Notarandrea, CEO of CCSA in a statement on National Addictions Awareness Week.
This year’s theme was inspired by the work of Harvard University’s Dr John Kelly, founder of the Recovery Research Institute.
According to his research, the language and words we chose to use have a direct impact on how society views people struggling with addictions. For example, referring to individuals as suffering from “substance use disorders” rather than as “substance abusers” reduces stigma and increases the chance of individuals seeking help.
“As individuals, we can educate ourselves about the essential nature of addiction as a health condition. We can also ensure that the language we use is consistent with the nature of the condition. Finally, we can support those who put a face and a voice to recovery, to show that it is attainable.
“Simply put, we need to reinforce what the science has taught us about addiction. Addiction does not discriminate — it impacts people from all walks of life. It is not a moral failing and it is not a “choice,” stated Notarandrea.
National Addictions Awareness Week is an annual national campaign that highlights issues and solutions related to alcohol, drugs and other addictions and provides Canadians with a chance to openly discuss prevention, treatments and solutions for change.
It is estimated that one in ten Canadians struggles with addiction and problematic substance abuse. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in 2017 deaths related to opioid use alone could well surpass 3,000.
National Addictions Awareness Week coincides with the CCSA’s national conference, Issues of Substance, which takes place from Nov. 13-15 in Calgary, AB.
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) takes addictions and substance abuse seriously and provides its members with resources and programs such as the Addictions Awareness and Prevention program.
If you or a loved one are a CAF member who is struggling with substance abuse, click here for resources.
Throughout National Addictions Awareness week, Canadians are encouraged to follow the conversation at #WordsMatter and #NAAW2017 on Twitter @CCSACanada and @CCDUSCanada to help support the efforts of individuals and organizations.