Addiction and Mental Health: Words (Still) Matter

A decade ago, William White helped explain how commonly used terms like “addict” and “abuse” helped reinforce stigma against people with addictions. Today, while the addiction field has increasingly shunned the word “addict,” “abuse” remains an unfortunately common moderator when talking about the disease of addiction. That includes the very name of the nation’s lead agency on addiction issues: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde reopened the discussion on use of language in an article in the March/April 2010 issue of SAMHSA News, where she asked readers to submit their suggestions and feedback on certain terms commonly used to describe addiction and mental illness.


“One thing everyone agrees on, including me, is that nearly every term we use is problematic,” Hyde wrote. “We need to find a way to talk about prevention, health, disorders, disease, addiction, illness, and recovery so that we can address the issues and not argue about what we mean. We definitely need to use ’people first’ language regardless of how we describe people with symptoms, illnesses, addictions, or diseases and how we label their status.”


Hyde’s commentary sparked more than 150 comments, including many from Join Together readers. Due to the enthusiastic response, SAMHSA has left the comments box open for a while longer, so feel free to email dialogue@samhsa.gov — and you might want to suggest to the administrator that SAMHSA is long overdue for a name change while you’re at it!


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Addiction and Mental Health Funding Center Established by SAMHSA

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has established a new financing center of excellence intended to generate new approaches to funding addiction and mental-health services as well as promoting best practices developed across the country.


“Our goal is to provide individuals working to improve the nation's health with insight on maximizing financial support for mental health and substance abuse services,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H.  “By serving as a source of innovation and information dissemination, SAMHSA can greatly advance its goal of increasing prevention and treatment service capacity and improving effectiveness.”


SAMHSA awarded a five-year, $7.3-million contract to Deloitte Consulting LLP to set up and run the center. Activities will include monitoring and analyzing service-delivery funding in the public and private sector, tapping experts to identify sustainable funding mechanisms, and communicating with the public about addiction and mental-health funding.

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