Your Weekly Dose of #5ThoughtsFriday: A description of what we think is important at BIAMD
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Words Matter - How to Refer to People
Who Use Drugs and Alcohol
By Arin Jayes

In the world of brain injury, there has been increasing conversation about the language we use to describe people who use drugs and alcohol. We encounter this because brain injury and a history of substance misuse tend to co-occur. Current research indicates that for individuals receiving either brain injury or substance misuse rehabilitation, up to two thirds had a history of TBI and substance misuse. Consequently, professionals in the brain injury field are encountering more patients who have acquired anoxic brain injuries from overdoses. While treating this population, professionals are exposed to the stigmatizing and negative language often used to refer to them. As professionals, we ask - how does this negative language impact drug users’ physical and mental health?

Addiction is one of the most stigmatized health conditions in the US and around the world. In Room’s (2005) study, in which survey respondents were asked about their perception of different health conditions, “someone who is visibly drunk,” and “someone who is visibly under the influence of drugs” were perceived the most negatively out of a list of other conditions. In their survey of British adults, Crisp et. al (2000) found that respondents commonly perceived people with schizophrenia, alcoholism and drug addiction as unpredictable and dangerous. Similarly, Barry et. al. (2014) found that people hold more negative attitudes towards people with drug addiction than other mental illness.

Portrayals of people in recovery also influence public perception. Barry et. al’s 2015 study compared the effects of vignettes portraying persons with untreated and symptomatic versus successfully treated and asymptomaic mental illness and drug addiction on public perception. Portrayals of untreated and symptomatic schizophrenia, depression, and heroin addiction heightened negative public attitudes toward persons with mental illness and drug addiction. In contrast, portrayals of successfully treated schizophrenia, prescription painkiller addiction, and heroin addiction led to less desire for social distance, greater belief in the effectiveness of treatment, and less willingness to discriminate against persons with these conditions. 

When referring to this community, some words are clearly more harmful than others. Ashford et. al’s (2018) study found that the terms “substance abuser,” “addict,” “alcoholic,” and “opioid addict,” had strong negative associations along with “relapse” and “recurrence of use.” 

“Pharmacotherapy” was strongly associated with the positive and significantly different than “medication-assisted treatment”. The researchers called for ceasing use of the terms “addict,” “alcoholic,” “opioid addict,” and “substance abuser.” Additionally, they suggested that “recurrence of use” and “pharmacotherapy” be used for their overall positive benefits. They also found that both “medication-assisted recovery” and “long-term recovery” are positive terms and can be used when applicable without promoting stigma.

Clearly, language matters! The Substance Use Disorder Institute recommends avoiding the following terms when referring to people who use drugs and alcohol:

CLICK HERE to the list

CLICK HERE for a very helpful infographic on this issue.
Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash
The first concussion in the year of concussions was delivered by the right fist of a man whose name I either don’t know or can’t remember. You could say it was a mild concussion, and I always will, but many experts say that there’s no such thing. You have a concussion or you don’t. You can’t be mildly pregnant. But a brain injury is not a baby. We know what a baby is.

I didn’t lose consciousness, or even my footing. When it was over, I skated away, with a ludicrous grin but without every item of my equipment or all of my wits. I had a sudden headache and a sense already of an alteration in the fabric of the world beyond the confines of my skull. Teammates leered at me. Aluminum rink light glinted off a thicket of surfaces: ice, plexiglass, helmets, sticks. The referee bent to report the infractions to the timekeeper, through a slot in the glass. In the penalty box, I fought the urge to lie down.

This was men’s league—beer league. You play hockey, then you drink beer. Beer in the locker room, beer in the parking lot, beer at the bar. Specifically, this was Game One of the league final, best of three, early July, 2016, after a sixteen-game season and a couple of playoff rounds. We all cared more than we should have. We ranged in age from just-out-of-college to my-kid’s-applying-to-college, with varying degrees of organized-hockey experience. I was one of the oldest, and one of the least experienced—I’d quit in freshman year of high school—but I’d never stopped skating in pickup games. I’d been a beer leaguer for twenty-five years and could still contribute here and there, and even, with crafty editing, create a mind’s-eye reel of my highlights to play as I drifted off to sleep.

CLICK HERE to read more about Nick's Concussion Year.
Photo by  Kenny Webster  on  Unsplash
Ioey Didulica ranks among some of the best soccer players Australia has ever produced.

He retired at 32. But his career - during which he played with Dutch football club Ajax and Croatia's national team - should have been longer.

Joey Didulica. “I am appalled still that with all this research out there, in any sport, that they give five or six-day recoveries. Or do some tests and you’re back on,” he said.

Joey Didulica. “I am appalled still that with all this research out there, in any sport, that they give five or six-day recoveries. Or do some tests and you’re back on,” he said.

A decade later, the former goalkeeper is unable to work a full-time job.

Didulica estimates he’s had more than 20 concussions in his life. After the last one, which essentially forced his retirement, he was out cold for 45 minutes.

Ever since, the Geelong-raised former sports star has been unable to shake the daily debilitating headaches and pain. The smallest things can bring them on.

“The glare outside, to being on a computer for a long time, to headaches in the morning,” he says. “Even noise at a function or after a long day of a lot of talking and I am stimulated with music and a lot of conversations – I can only handle so much of that.”

He lives, he says, “a very minimal life”.

Didulica is not alone. Players around the world report being forced out of the game they love by concussion.

Up until now such cases have merely been anecdotal, but a newly-published study has presented strong evidence that playing soccer at a professional level poses risks to the brain. And it is sending shockwaves through the world game.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found professional soccer players were almost five times more likely to be prescribed dementia medication than non-soccer-playing men of a similar age, and they were almost three-and-a-half times more likely to die from any neurodegenerative disease.

CLICK HERE to see where Australia is headed.
What We are Reading We Think
You Might FInd Interesting
IAn extraordinary memoir about the cutting-edge brain therapy that dramatically changed the life and mind of John Elder Robison, the New York Times bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye


Imagine spending the first forty years of your life in darkness, blind to the emotions and social signals of other people. Then imagine that someone suddenly switches the lights on.

It has long been assumed that people living with autism are born with the diminished ability to read the emotions of others, even as they feel emotion deeply. But what if we’ve been wrong all this time? What if that “missing” emotional insight was there all along, locked away and inaccessible in the mind?

In 2007 John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation: Would John like to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, who would use an experimental new brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an effort to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism? Switched On is the extraordinary story of what happened next.

CLICK HERE to read more about John's remarkable story.
5) Quote We Are Contemplating...

"For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. "

Friday, November 15, 2019 8am - 4pm |
800 N Glebe Road Arlington VA 22203
Susan Hahn and Barry Coleman

Get everything you need to run DiSC workshops and debrief individuals and teams. DiSC is the leading personal assessment tool used by over
1 million people every year to improve work productivity, teamwork, and communication.
The DiSC Model of Assessment Equips You To:
• Better understand yourself and others.
• Increase your knowledge of how you
respond to conflict, identify stressors
and how you or others resolve problems.
• Recognize the communication needs
of individuals and team members.
• Learn tips on how to adapt to others’
behavioral styles.
• Identify ways to work through conflict

CLICK HERE for more info.
Have you ever clicked on the pictures posted at the end of every #5ThoughtsFridays? Try it. You might learn something fun!
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