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October 4, 2016

Changing the Language of Addiction

Author Affiliations
  • 1White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, DC
  • 2Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2016;316(13):1361-1362. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.11874

Words matter. In the scientific arena, the routine vocabulary of health care professionals and researchers frames illness1 and shapes medical judgments. When these terms then enter the public arena, they convey social norms and attitudes. As part of their professional duty, clinicians strive to use language that accurately reflects science, promotes evidence-based treatment, and demonstrates respect for patients.

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