Aaron Kucharski, who works with both the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the nonprofit Facing Addiction, spoke to our class on Thursday about the proper language to use when writing addiction and recovery stories.
He explained that negative words, like “addict,” “junkie” and “drunk,” are stigmatizing. Using these words doesn’t acknowledge the humanity of subjects. The stigmatization that goes along with these words also makes it easier for some people to blame those who struggle with addiction for their troubles. This isn’t helpful, especially when writing solutions stories.
Other terms Aaron discussed with our class, include “addiction” and “drug dependence.” He said these terms have different connotations. Addiction calls to mind someone who can’t control their substance use on their own and who needs to regularly access more of that substance. Drug dependence, however, calls to mind someone using prescription pills to treat chronic pain, continually increasing their dosage to treat growing pain levels.
Additionally, Aaron also discussed other important topics related to addiction and recovery reporting. He said it’s essential journalists be upfront with sources about their intentions for story angles. He also stressed that journalists need to be respectful of people’s choices regarding whether or not they want to share their own personal stories of addiction and recovery with the public through media publications.