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Recognising the recovering addict with Honneth: an intervention into the stigmatising language debate in the alcohol and other drugs field

Ian Walmsley (College of Social Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

Drugs, Habits and Social Policy

ISSN: 2752-6739

Article publication date: 7 August 2023

Issue publication date: 12 September 2023

317

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to assess the impact of the recommendation to replace identity-first language with person-first language on people who self-identify as recovering addicts as part of a recovery programme. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) will be used to illustrate the contextualised nature of the recovering addict identity.

Design/methodology/approach

To demonstrate the value of the recovering addict identity and social relations in NA, this paper draws on Axel Honneth’s theory of mutual recognition and self-formation.

Findings

Person-first language overlooks the significance of identity-first language to people in 12-step recovery. This oversight is linked to the logic of stigma reduction which excludes all identity-first language by association rather than assessing the impact of such terms on a case-by-case basis. Honneth’s theory is used to show how the recovering addict identity facilitates self-confidence and self-esteem through relations of mutual recognition in NA.

Research limitations/implications

The argument excludes people who identify as recovering addicts, but do not attend 12-step groups. Further research would be needed to understand how the recommendation to use person-first language instead of identity-first language impacts upon other recovery communities and pathways.

Practical implications

The recommendation to replace identity-first language with person-first language might result in 12-step fellowships becoming marginalised within the broader academic and policy and practice arena. Language preferences can become a contentious issue when 12-step groups and their members enter the wider recovery arena where their preferred terminology is viewed as stigmatising and dehumanising.

Originality/value

To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first article to propose an alternative theoretical framework to stigma reduction for judging morally appropriate language in the alcohol and drugs field.

Keywords

Citation

Walmsley, I. (2023), "Recognising the recovering addict with Honneth: an intervention into the stigmatising language debate in the alcohol and other drugs field", Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 220-231. https://doi.org/10.1108/DHS-05-2023-0019

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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