Saying It Nicer – The Importance Of Language Around The Disease Of Addiction

Saying It Nicer – The Importance of Language Around the Disease of Addiction

In October, ABC News reporter Amy Robach brought up Hunter Biden’s issues with substance use in an interview, commenting that he had been “in and out or rehab seven, eight times.” Biden, who is the son of President Joe Biden, said what many who have experienced the stigma around substance use have wanted to say before: “Say it nicer to me.” Chuckling, he amended her question from “in and out of rehab” to “sought treatment for an issue, like most people.”

For those who treat substance use disorders, or who have experienced them themselves, the exchange on ABC News struck a chord. Addiction is a disease. However, it is so often framed as a personal and moral failing. Even using the language of “in and out of rehab” to describe the recovery process is an example of the stigma that exists around seeking treatment for addiction. This all serves to create more barriers between people with a substance use disorder and getting the help they need. When their addiction—even the act of rehabilitation to address it—is seen as a failure, people are far less likely to seek help.

Stigma does not start at an individual level. Instead years of public policy and depiction in the media shape the way addiction is discussed in our everyday lives. As Action Network pointed out, the view of addiction as a moral issue persists even in the very names of organizations that address it:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Society of Behavioral Medicine published a brief arguing that the use of the terms abuse and abusers “have been shown to increase stigmatizing and discriminatory attitudes toward individuals suffering from drug and alcohol problems both in the general population and among clinicians,” contributing to an attitude of punishment instead of treatment and to suboptimal clinical conditions for people with SUDs.

If you would like to join the call to remove substance “abuse” from the names of our national organizations, click here to sign Action Network’s petition. One of our passions at AZZLY® is decreasing the stigma associated with substance use disorders and promoting education and evidence-based treatment. We share a common goal of empowering addiction treatment providers, through modern technology, to efficiently deliver quality care to their patients. Addiction is a disease, and it takes a disease management tool to treat it.

AZZLY is a leading provider of specialty-specific software, AZZLY Rize™, a modern cloud platform that is the foundation for treatment centers’ clinical, business and compliance requirements. AZZLY Rize is a behavioral healthcare and addiction treat-specific provider tool encompassing a comprehensive electronic health record (EHR), revenue cycle management (RCM), and patient management (PM) in one seamless platform to help providers manage the substance use disorders and other behavioral diseases. Our product experts would love to discuss the newest features and functionalities of AZZLY Rize with you! Schedule an appointment here. Visit or call 1 (888) 400-3201 for more information on AZZLY.