Impact of prejudice and discrimination
Stigma and Discrimination in the Language of Addiction, Dr. Kenneth Tupper (1:32)
Dr. Kenneth Tupper discusses how language can be stigmatizing for people with addiction problems.
My name is Kenneth Tupper. I'm the director of implementation of partnerships with the BC Centre on Substance Use. I'm also an adjunct professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.
A language for humans is kind of like water for fish, in that we swim in it. It's part of our everyday reality. But seldom do we, sort of, have an opportunity to, sort of, step outside it and see the influence that it has. So language shapes our thinking. There are, kind of, eddies and swirls that move around us, and sort of push us in certain directions in the way we frame ideas and think about things. That is, they unconsciously can sometimes perpetuate issues, like stigma and discrimination where maybe they're not intended, but still, kind of, have that effect on other people, particularly from systems of power and influence, such as medical or health care professions.
For a long time, we stigmatized people who use drugs with this, sort of, disparaging terms like junkie or addict, but now we understand that these are all people. And to think about them as people first is really important, not just in how we think, but also in how we talk. So to talk about people who use drugs, rather than say junkie or addict or even drug user, is a shift away to a more person-centric frame.