DON’T CALL MY DAD THE “A” WORD, says Jessica Hulsey Nickel, President of Addiction Policy Forum, op-ed today in Washington Times

September 18 19:37 2017
Hulsey Nickel, a lead witness before Christie-WH Commission and Collins-NIH Initiative, says Using the right language removes stigma and encourages seeking treatment

WASHINGTON, DC – 18 Sep, 2017 – Jessica Hulsey Nickel, who testified before the Christie Commission in June and is the President of the Addiction Policy Forum, has written an op-ed in the Washington Times, “Don’t call my Dad the ‘A’ word”.  Nickel says that using the correct language when discussing those who struggle with drugs removes stigma and encourages individuals to seek treatment.

Hulsey Nickel argues that when someone is labeled an “addict,” it makes people think different about their disease. Unlike when a family member has cancer or Alzheimer’s, “addicts” do not receive the same sympathy for their disease. In turn, that stigma means that those suffering are less likely to seek help.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 33,000 persons last year died from opioid overdoses. Opioid overdoses — not just heroin, but prescription pain medicine, fentanyl and carfentanil sold and used illegally or legally — have quadrupled the last two decades. Drug overdose deaths are now more than from car crashes, equal to 17 times the deaths on 9/11.

Hulsey Nickel begins, “September is National Recovery Month. We are facing an epidemic in America. Over 50,000 people a year die from drug overdoses, 144 a day. President Trump recently declared it an ‘emergency.’”

She continues, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 33,000 persons last year died from opioid overdoses. Opioid overdoses — not just heroin, but prescription pain medicine, fentanyl and carfentanil sold and used illegally or legally — have quadrupled the last two decades. Drug overdose deaths are now more than from car crashes, equal to 17 times the deaths on 9/11.”

She goes on, “Growing up, I heard many people call my dad the ‘a’ word — an addict. In reality, he was a brilliant man and the father of two girls. He played guitar, could fix anything that ran on electricity, and had a debilitating medical condition called a substance use disorder — a heroin addiction. He died much too young at the age of 48.”

Hulsey Nickel argues, “When addiction hits your family, it’s like being hit head-on by a Mack Truck. It’s sleepless nights filled with worry, it’s desperate Googling, it’s dead-end streets, it’s isolation. And for those that have lost someone — a son, a daughter, a mom, a dad — it’s unimaginable pain. But unlike the support that erupts when other medical issues hit our neighbors — say cancer or Alzheimer’s — where are the offers for help, the casserole dishes, the warm cookies, ‘thinking of you’ cards and potluck fundraisers?”

Jessica Hulsey Nickel provided the following chart:

USING THE MOST EFFECTIVE LANGUAGE TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO SEEK TREATMENT:

Don’ts

Substance abuse/dependence

Addict; Drug abuser; Junkie; Druggie

Clean; Staying clean

Drug habit

Clean drug test

Dirty drug test

Do’s

Substance use disorder

Individual with a substance use disorder

In recovery; In remission

Has a substance use disorder

Negative drug test; Not currently using substances

Positive drug test; Currently using substances

Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president of the Addiction Policy Forum, was one of the first witnesses to testify this year in front of The Christie-White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and at NIH Director Francis Collins’ Opioid Initiative.

Source: Robert Weiner Associates and Addiction Policy Forum

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