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  • Barbara Papp B.A, M.A

Addiction- What's in the Word?

I’ve been an addictions counsellor for 25 years and like belly buttons you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion about addiction. How to treat it, what causes it, who most likely has it, what we as a community can do about it and the musings go on and on. Even the word ADDICTION strikes fear in those who have it, and wish they didn’t, and family members who find their loved ones lost to it. The word itself has undergone a metamorphosis in the past 5 years I’ve been around the profession-rom addiction to substance abuse (I find this one the most difficult to even say- liken it to abusive people who are criminal) to substance misuse and now we’ve landed on substance use disorder (medically minded and based on a continuum of mild, moderate and severe). Other words used to describe the treatment or management of the disorder also carries with it much opinion- harm reduction, safe supply, decriminalization, overdose, poisonings, drunk driving, impaired driving and the list goes on and on. The thing about all these words, and lets face it they are just a bunch of letters put together to form words, is that behind the words and their meanings are people. Real people Our neighbours, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, kids, friends and more words.


These are letters to form words, to form meaning and to inform us of how to treat, manage, and help those who have the disorder. Treatment has also been a source of many letters, words, and opinions. What I’ve learned is, if someone says they have the one and only answer to treatment (or cause for that matter), they don’t. William White, a prolific writer in the addiction’s world says, “there are many paths to recovery, and all are cause for celebration”. This is true and factual. Second, substance use disorder can be prevented. We know it can because not everyone gets it, even with many risk factors (family history, availability to substances, loving the effects, adverse childhood experiences and many others).


I have been honoured to use my words to work with people who have been subject to all the other words- addicts, alcoholics, drug addicted, and some I won’t spell out here. Prevention is a word to denote - safeguarding (think lifejackets), avoidance (cigarette packaging and cancer), and obstruction. More words. Prevention works and words work. Both work and yet the amount of time we spend treating, labelling, and opinioning (not a word but trust me it will fit), we could be preventing the use of all the other words to denote a condition that everyone has an opinion about.


If you are looking for support in your recovery journey, or curious about your relationship with substances, myself and Chelsea Korpan-Sparks offer individual counselling sessions with Evolve Counselling & Wellness. We also offer the Prime for Life which is a prevention program for those who are wanting to evaluate their use and reduce their risk of health and impairment problems due to substances.


By Barbara Papp B.A, M.A (Substance Use/Co-occurring Counsellor and Prevention Educator)

To book an appointment contact Evolve Counselling & Wellness at (639)384-7674, email, or book online at

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