Addiction is a neurobiological disease, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Its development is influenced by environmental, cognitive and genetic factors. Addiction can be characterized by “impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm and/or craving.” Addiction often implies dependence on substances other than alcohol, although alcoholism is essentially alcohol addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association recommends avoiding the term addict, suggesting instead the phrase “someone experiencing a drug/alcohol problem.” The association also discourages using the term junkie, which specifically refers to someone who misuses heroin.
According to Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to the Use of Language by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the term addiction is acceptable for uncontrollable, compulsive use of substances as well as acts such as gambling, sex, working, etc., in the face of negative health and social consequences. The center states that addiction differs from dependence in that dependence only accounts for health problems, whereas addiction denotes use, despite health and social problems (this same distinction applies to alcohol dependence and alcoholism). The center also recommends using the word misuse in place of abuse when describing harmful drug usage.
Avoid the terms clean and dirty concerning drug test results, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The terms are considered derogatory because they equate symptoms of illness to filth. When referring to a drug test, state that the person tested positive for (drug).
It is preferable to refer to someone who harmfully uses drugs as someone with a drug addiction. Use recovering or in recovery from to refer to someone trying to overcome active addiction, i.e. someone recovering from a methamphetamine addiction.
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