Writing about addiction has been a tricky business for journalists for years. Until recently, addiction has been a taboo subject and the topic of a disease has been left to those affected to discuss, leaving the public practically clueless about why people use and how they can stop. This deficit of information has helped promote stigma and keep the public in the dark about both addiction and recovery.
However, the times are changing as more people become aware of addiction as a disease that now affects millions of Americans and people worldwide. Addiction is not a mere social ill; it’s a disease that involves the individual, but their family, friends, neighborhoods, and community. Newspapers, blogs, and television report on both a hyper local level and on a national level on the topics of drug use, abuse and addiction in many ways. Many of these articles have been stigmatizing when trying to paint a portrait of the addiction epidemic. In fact, until the past few years, most of the articles the public has been exposed to focus on the toll against society; crimes against property and people, arrests of drug dealers and the addicted, alike.
Things have been rapidly changing in the way addiction is covered in the news. Today, you can find articles about addiction and recovery in the local newspaper. There are several websites (like ours) that focus on addiction and recovery news that is partial to helping those who have substance abuse issues find a new way of life. There are industry publications that explore evidence-based treatment across the globe. Families of people who die from addiction are now quoted freely, and addicts are seen as breathing, living people who are so much more than their disease. This transition has been small and gradual, but the mainstream media has decided to lead the transition from addiction being a topic of a conversation held on local, national, and international levels.
Many writers and journalists have struggled to find the words to write about addiction and recovery in an accurate and compassionate way, but it appears this will be changing as well. Last week, the Associated Press released new guidelines for writing about addiction and drug use. These guidelines are followed by over 15,000 publications nationwide, and that’s just the start. Once these guidelines were released, publications such as NPR News announced they would follow suit. Additionally, hundreds of colleges in the US require AP style for writing assignments, meaning the new language will
These guidelines will be followed by thousands of publications unless the AP modifies them in a future book edition. According to NPR, the new edition the AP Stylebook instructs that “addict” should no longer be used as a noun, “Instead, choose phrasing like he was addicted, people with heroin addiction or he used drugs.” There are also other descriptions on how to refer to alcohol abusers and other more obscure drugs, such as K2 and bath salts.