Recovery dialects

Variations of this infographic are making the rounds.

I’ll offer 2 warnings:

  1. I’d be very cautious about telling mutual aid groups what they should and shouldn’t say within their communities. (Or outside them, for that matter.)It’s one thing to recommend language for professionals and people who choose to become advocates, but it’s another to do it with communities of recovery.

    At one time, my agency alienated the local recovering community by failing to respect it, and failing to recognize that we needed them more than they needed us. If our agency disappeared, they’d be fine. However, if they disappeared, our agency and our clients would be in terrible shape.

  2. I don’t imagine the creators intend for “medication-assisted treatment” to be replaced with “medication-assisted recovery”, but I suspect that a lot of people would intentionally or unintentionally conflate treatment and recovery.

    It’s important to keep in mind that there are plenty of people in treatments of all kinds that are not in recovery. For us, disentangling recovery and treatment has been essential to developing and maintaining a recovery orientation.

This isn’t a warning, but I’ve posted before on the movement toward the category of “substance use disorders.”

The study these infographics are based on can be found here.

4 thoughts on “Recovery dialects

  1. Thanks for sharing Jason, and for the comments. As the lead author of the study, I wanted to offer some additional insight.

    First, this version of the infographic was not cross-comparing certain phrases (i.e. MAR following MAT was not suggesting anything in relation to each other). Another version of the infographic that does offer replacement suggestions makes this point clear (as does this article) that the suggested alternative is “pharmacotherapy” and more specifically, OUD Pharmacotherapy.

    Second, we agree with you in terms of telling the recovery community, and more specifically the 12-step mutual aid recovery community, on what to do. There has been increased movement that language change should also take root inside 12-step meeting rooms, but there is no empirical evidence as of yet that what is a stigmatizing label in public settings is also stigmatizing in these settings. In fact, prospective studies have suggested it provides benefits through catharsis and identity reformation. As such, while we hypothesize that there may be negative outcomes associated with using such labels in these settings, such claims or suggestions would not be based on the science that exists. Additionally, even if this hypothesis turns out to be verified, the right to self-identify and self-label as one wishes should be upheld at all times.

    We would mention though, the one row of the graphic that suggests not to use language in mutual aid meetings (MAT) is made due to the noted discrimination individuals taking OUD medications often can experience in these settings (see NA literature pamphlets for instance on the subject). Using OUD pharmacotherapy in this instance may not negate all effects of this stigma and discrimination (it likely would not), but any potential mediating effect we think should be seen as a positive.

    As with anything, the infographics are but a short snippet of what the full study offers. I do hope that everyone will read the article you have linked to to get a full picture of the results and suggestions made. Stigma and discrimination, as these concepts pertain to the recovery and active substance using communities, are very real concerns that are in need of full scale research.

    Thanks again for the post, and for all the work that you do!

  2. Jason, Thank you for sharing. Robert – thank you for clarifying your research. But as a member of a 12 Step Program for 30 years – I choose to keep It simple and identify with what I am an alcoholic and drug addict

    In my opinion dressing it up doesn’t change who and what we are, the more important point to received the needed treatment, follow-up and attendance at meetings.

    My opinion is the move to change descriptions is better left in the therapy setting. All the people I know that attend AA or NA refer to themselves as either an Alcoholic or an Addict. We must be honest with ourselves.

    The people that use Substance Abuse Disorder, etc – in my experience tend to work in the treatment community or do not attend the traditional 12 step programs.
    Alcoholics Anonymous the first of the 12 step programs at 83 years old has a had the most success. Narcotics Anonymous has 65 years of experience. All of the 12 Steps programs currently available today have one way or another followed the 12 Steps of AA.

    Don’t mess with our language.

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