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“Substance Abuse” Is a Label We Should All Reject

Danielle E. Alvarez

“Abuse” is an ugly word. “Child abuse,” “sexual abuse,” “physical abuse,” “emotional abuse,” “domestic abuse.” And then, of course, there’s “substance abuse.”

But one of those things is not like the others: In all of the other types of abuse, there is a perpetrator who is harming a victim. In substance abuse, however, it makes no sense to argue that the victim is the poor innocent line of methamphetamine or glass of Chardonnay. The damage done—both by the problem and by the term—is focused prim

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  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Interesting thoughts on how the definition of "abuse" plays into possible or nonexistent character defects of someone with addiction issues. I do think abuse isn't just violent- it's a harmful use of behavior/power too (that's how people initially start addictions- but maybe that's a narrow way for me to put it). Those with addictions have chemical imbalances in their brains, so I wholeheartedly agree that something should be done about ending the stigmatization by cutting use of the term "substance abuse/substance abuser": "If we want to fight addiction, then, it is important that we separate out the contribution of addictive disorders to the problems seen in people with addictions. Addictions are not caused by “character defects” and they don’t call forth immoral behavior from out of the blue. The way to start is by being careful about what we call ourselves, about what we see as the essential characteristics of addiction and how we understand our condition."