Mindful Editing: Substance Abuse Sensitivity

Editors have a responsibility to be aware of the content they allow to reach readers. This is especially true when it comes to the language that is used to address mental illnesses, addiction, and disorders. The stigma that surrounds these sensitive topics is alarming. Recently, writers and editors have been more conscious of the language they use when discussing mental illnesses and disorders like alcoholism, but there is still substantial ground to be covered when it comes to modifying how we talk about substance abuse disorders. In particular, there is very little discussion about how to respect the language around drug addiction. The disregard for language concerning drug addiction is shocking, as improper language can alienate an entire audience that often goes unrecognized. This can damage an editor, writer, and reader alike.

Right now there are two helpful guides that provide writers and editors with the proper information they need when it comes to writing about mental illness and substance abuse disorders. One website, the Conscious Style Guide, has various categories that are covered. These range from how to address the language about racism, age, mental illness, disabilities, and more. This website does not, however, address drug addiction in particular. The Conscious Style Guide is pretty well-known among editors, so the lack of information about drug addiction language is alarming. To make up for this blunder, a new website called Addictionary® covers what language should be used in order to reduce the stigma around addiction. This website is far from perfect, as there are many things that must be addressed in order to fully reduce stigma, but it is a step in the right direction. Addictionary® even provides resources to recovery and further research on the issue of addiction, continually aiding in the development of how language can be modified. The perception of drug abuse has been negative for a long time. Substance abuse disorders have only recently become a major issue to the public because of the rising awareness of the opioid epidemic. It is because of this sudden awareness, though, that the improper use of language and treatment toward this affected community are creeping into the public eye.

Language is important to our everyday lives. While websites like Addictionary® and the Conscious Style Guide provide the tools for editors to be more conscious of their language when writing about substance abuse disorders, editors must make the first move to ensure that this language becomes more common in literature. Language can change the meaning of a book, journal, or blog in its entirety. Now is the time to employ proper language when it comes to discussing addiction and those affected by it. As language becomes more consistent in portrayal of substance abuse, there is a greater likelihood of individual opinions changing regarding the perception of drug use. Editors can start this movement, ultimately protecting the audience of a certain book, blog, or journal, as well as creating a newfound respect for language that addresses substance abuse disorders.

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