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Is it Damaging to Call a Drug or Alcohol Addict a Substance ‘Abuser’?

Millions of people use and misuse drugs, alcohol and other substances in America. Several names are use to address those who misuse them. Sometimes, they are called “addicts,” some other times, they are referred to as “abusers.”

While these may all mean the same thing, there is growing concern within the medical community on the term “abuser.” Medical practitioners seem to be discouraging the use of that appellation arguing that it mars the chances a complete recovery. But is this really the case? Does referring to a person who misuses drugs or alcohol as “abuser” really have harmful consequences?

According to Dr. John F. Kelly, director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, labeling addicts “abusers” makes them feel like they deliberately jumped into their addiction. Dr. Kelly, who is also associate professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School, notes that addicts ought to see themselves, and be seen as people dealing with a brain disorder.

He says labeling them abusers “could suggest willful misconduct, which some people believe should be punished, not treated.”

Medical experts note the realities of the medical field are complex. They note that for people who are addicted to drugs and other substances, cravings for alcohol or drugs could exceed every other concern, even survival. As such, their addiction is really not of their making, and so they shouldn’t be made to feel so.

So to give a clear answer to the worry of whether it is damaging to label addicts as abusers, some medical experts are categorically affirmative of this. And if you are one of those who has always referred to such persons as abusers, it is probably time to take a break and consider what health experts are saying. It just could be another way of saving lives.

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