Influential word-usage guide changes the language of addiction

The Boston Globe

People concerned about addiction treatment are cheering a development that might, at first, seem inconsequential: a change in a word-usage guide.

The Associated Press Stylebook, a word-choice and grammar bible for journalists, recommended May 31 that journalists use “addiction” instead of “substance abuse,” and “person with addiction” instead of “addict” or “abuser,” among other changes expected to influence writers, editors, and students around the globe.

Those applauding the Associated Press’s shift see much more at stake than the nuances of proper diction.

The words chosen to describe addiction, according to advocates, affect how the people who suffer from it see themselves, and how others see them. For too long, theysay, the language around addiction implied moral failing rather than illness, a stigma that discourages treatment.