“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This childhood truism serves many children well when confronted with name-calling bullies, but it turns out that in addressing the opioid crisis, the exact opposite may be true.

Categorizing Conditions

There are many illnesses that require ongoing treatment, including arthritis, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and high blood pressure. Medical solutions are available to manage these conditions, and it’s hard to imagine someone refusing treatment.

Following is a description of a long-term treatment condition from the Patient web site, which offers trusted medical information and support:

You may find that having a long-term condition will affect many areas of your life. These may include family relationships, your ability to work, your accommodation, your educational needs and your finances.

This description likewise applies to problems with opioid use. In fact, it should be even easier for one to recognize the need for treatment: medical symptoms are sometimes tricky to diagnose, whereas it is hard to ignore the fact that one is continuing to use a substance despite its having a negative impact on one’s health and ability to function effectively. Yet a high percentage of those who need help never seek it.

Stigma as Treatment Deterrent

The problem comes with labels like “addict” or “abuser.” Facing the fact that one needs help is a big step. Asking for it is another. But when those steps require one to apply to oneself labels that are so vilified in society, the difficulty is greatly compounded; it comes with a large dose of “I am a bad person” and how much harder is it to take that on?

According to psychcentral.com, denial is quite common, even with everyday life. Denial includes minimizing; rationalizing; forgetting; self-deception; repression. Needless to say, tough problems are tougher to face up to and address.

Finding a Mindset for Healing

It’s important to recognize that drug addiction is a condition which can be managed, even fully recovered from, with appropriate medical treatment. Describing someone as “suffering from a substance use disorder” rather than as “a drug addict” can have a profound impact on the person’s willingness to accept and address their condition. According to Harvard Health Publications, it can even have an effect on the medical providers working with these individuals. Compassion and understanding can pave the road to effective treatment and recovery.