Drug of Addiction: It’s not a choice

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Hand on Drink

I have asked individuals “what is your drug of choice?” or have stated “so, opiates are your drug of choice” countless times.  After hearing Jeff Georgi speak at a recent conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, I will work to replace the phrase “drug of choice” with the much more accurate “drug of addiction.”  At the opening of Georgi’s presentation, he took a poll by asking how many of the attendees believed in the disease model of addiction.  Everyone raised their hand.  As mental health professionals, we’ve seen enough clients and research that tells us that addiction to substances is, in fact, a disease.  Georgi pointed out not only the inconsistency in believing addiction to be a disease, and using the phrase “drug of choice,” but also the damage we inflict on our clients.  As he put it, language matters.  I agree that we need to examine what words we use as it is a reflection, either accurately or inaccurately, of more deeply held belief systems.  Unfortunately, for some of us, using the phrase, “drug of choice,” might reflect a clinging to the old misinformed moral model of substance abuse.

Lingering language can strengthen stigma surrounding substance abuse.  As clinicians, we need to correct our language misrepresentations and also educate our clients along the way to stop using shame and stigma inducing phrases such as “drug of choice.”  Begin using “drug of addiction,” and notice the shift in the tone of your communication about the disease of addiction.

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