Associated Press Style Guide Removes “Addict” As A Noun
NEW YORK, NY (June 15, 2017) – Last week, the Associated Press took a groundbreaking and important step in destigmatizing the disease of addiction. The new edition of the standard AP Stylebook states “addict” should no longer be used as a noun, but instead to choose phrasing like “they were addicted” or “people who are addicted”.
The guide also has new entries on the word “alcoholic” and expands specific indicators from bath salts to cocaine to PCP and synthetic cannabis, educating journalists on de-stigmatizing language. Many advocates feel that it will help to correct a widespread misunderstanding in media of the very nature of the topic of addiction.
“Stigmatizing language discourages those suffering from getting help,” says Vertava Health Chief Clinical Officer Toril Newman. “They often feel great shame and are embarrassed if they are in a risky, active addiction. They will isolate rather than ask for help.”
The move could also improve how those addicted to a drug are viewed by lawmakers when passing legislation on the topic. Those who are labeled “addict” are likely to be viewed differently than those with a “substance use disorder”.
“Around the beginning of the year, in January, we noticed that there was a hole in our guidance on addiction,” AP Enterprise editor Jeff McMillan tells NPR. “As we began talking to experts, we learned that the language that was traditionally used is changing, and we thought it would be good to give people a vocabulary.”
It remains to be seen how this will affect groups like AA, where members are encouraged to identify as an “addict” or an “alcoholic”. In the big picture, it’s better for all of us if those outside of the recovery community at least, use language that reflects a human being first, and their disease second.