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Addict.v  addict.adj classic Latin, addictus (‘assigned by decree, made over, bound, devoted.’) Past parcipatale of addicere, (‘to assign, to make over by sale or auction, to award, to appoint, to ascribe, to hand over, surrender, enslave, to devote, to sentence, condemn.’)

Ad– (‘to, towards, at’) …. –dico (‘say; declare’).            [Oxford English Dictionary]

When you look at the definition of the original term for an addict(us) nobody assigned themselves an addict. It was a judgement. Assigned by somebody else. An authority. If you got into debt and could not pay your credit, a judge would bind you into the service of the one you owed. You had no choice… other than the choice to get into that debt.

Later in the 1600s it became a state of being and took on a milder descriptive term. Someone with a tendency, an inclination, a penchant. (Shakespeare is credited as one of the first people to use it in this way in literature).

It seems to be from the turn of the 20 century that the words addict and addiction came back towards the original intention of the word. But its meaning was somehow watered down and beefed up. Now it meant someone who enslaved themselves. Gave themselves over to something. Devoted themselves to something desirable. Notably the opium epidemic that was running rampant at the time. That’s the thing. We only attribute being an addict to something that someone LIKES to do. Something that’s NICE….

Food addict, sex addict, drug addict. Gambling addict. Telly addict, Chocolate addict, Instagram addict.

Ad… (‘towards’). dict. (‘declare’). ion. (‘go’).

These are not passive words. They are action words. Doing words.

Illness (‘disease, sickness, ailment, malady’) 1680. Ill adj + ness. Amazingly, circa 1500.  Someone with an Illness meant someone with “a bad moral quality.”

DiseaseDis– (‘lack of, opposite of, apart, away from’) –ease, from old French aise (‘comfort, pleasure, well-being, at rest. Relief from pain or care. To relax from one’s efforts.)

Interestingly ‘at ease’ was used from the 1300s to date, as a military order, which denotes.  ‘Freedom from stiffness or formality.’ (strange because if using substances is the disease, why does intoxication sound like freedom from stiffness and formality?)

It’s strange that these words have been co-opted or corrupted or have come to mean the opposite of what they originally meant.

In the modern day, when one pictures someone with a disease, you can picture maybe, someone with cancer, HIV, or Sickle cell anaemia. Somebody who needs medical treatment from doctors. Medicine. Physical remedies. You wouldn’t think of someone who could be treated by just a change in language, thinking, and perception. Which is actually the only sure way to treat substance use. Unless you replace that substance with another substance which is silly.

To condemn someone who has had a long-term relationship with something they love as having a disease (lifelong and chronic in some eyes) is no cure for said disease. It’s a closed loop. “I am an addict, because I can’t stop drinking, because I’m an addict……..” But wait. Does that mean someone who was an addict but has stopped using – are no longer an addict?

Language is important. It’s not only our way of communicating with others, but with ourselves. We can all agree a chair is called a chair and Its function is for sitting. If someone came in and called it a table, there would be incredulous looks and probably a long conversation about the nature and use of ‘chair’. Why would someone call a chair a table unless they were told that’s what it is?

Sounds nonsensical I know.  Janus, I understand, when talking about choice and conscious decision making concerning substance use, are often met with the same confused resistance – as if those ideas are the same as naming a ‘chair’ a ‘table’. Not only from service users, but some professionals also.

It’s important to lead someone through our thought process using language we can agree upon.

Discover (v.) dis (‘opposite of’) cover (‘unveil.’) (‘to obtain the first knowledge or sight of what was before not known.’)

What we say is that the substance user one day made a discovery. They drank, or took a drug, or a combination of both. And it was a powerful experience. One they were keen to repeat.

Relationship. (‘the way in which two or more people or things are connected or are in a state of being connected.’). Relation (n) late 14 century (‘connection, correspondence, proposition.’) from the Anglo French ‘Relacioun’ meaning ‘report.’ –Ship  from middle English ‘schipe’ meaning (‘quality, condition; skill, act, power, office, position, relation between.’)

The user over time developed a relationship with their drug/drugs of choice. Because getting high is nice. And this evolves. Sometimes closer, sometimes further away. It may feel the same with any bond a someone can have with another person. Yet the drug can’t walk away from them like a thinking feeling person. The choice is whether to maintain a relationship with the drug is solely the users choice. The using will stop only when the user chooses too.

Behaviour(n) late 15th century (‘manner of behaving, (whether good or bad) conduct, manners.’) Essentially from behave, but with the ending from middle English havour meaning (‘possession’.) (‘The actions or reactions of persons or things in response to external or internal stimuli.  The actions displayed by an organism in response to its environment.’)

The behaviours a person who uses and wants to continue to use exhibit are varied. From lying, unavailability at home, accumulating debts, secrecy, criminal activity amongst others. Yet the behaviour that is most displayed is blame, i.e. Stress. Mental health. Homelife. Childhood. Bereavements. Trauma. Jobs. Other people in their lives ((we are not saying these issues are not real. But they need to be explored unto themselves). Yet not everyone who has these things uses substances and some that do are not “addicts”. Some “addicts” just stop, are they still addicts?

It’s a mentality and a language that is loaded with the word VICTIM. But it’s important that regarding someone who requires treatment for their substance problem that they recognise that when it comes to specifically using drink or drugs, they are the PERPETRATOR in that relationship. Everyone else around them who suffer the effects of their using are the victims. They are in total control.

The word addict is a very good defence mechanism and like all defence mechanisms, it’s there to protect. It’s a top trump. It’s used against family, friends, employers, doctors, psychiatrists, the benefit system. Though to truly help those in recovery in the long run, we need to break down those defences. To change their narrative. To do anything else would be a disservice to them, their family future, and to society at large.

It’s important that we un-muddy the waters and decrease the complexity, when it comes to helping someone who feels, or is told they have an addiction to something. Also to the myriad reasons why they have, say an issue with substances. The truth is they have a relationship with their drug/s of choice. Nothing more. Once we raise the awareness of this in clients it no longer feels a monster. A disease. An incurable lifelong illness. Knowing this the client is free to go on and make the choice to continue or to leave it behind. Taking full responsibility for their decision.

The terms addiction, illness and disease have changed and mutated. They have had hundreds of years to do so and their original meanings have almost been lost.

We have complicated words and twisted their meanings that were very clear and concise. Have we evolved or devolved when it comes to helping those who are told they have a disease?


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