Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / Side Effects Public Media

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

Reframing The Language Of Addiction: Researcher Pushes To Strike The Term 'Abuse'

Jun 9, 2016

Last month, Dr. John Kelly gave a presentation at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Washington D.C. It's an important agency that funds more than a billion dollars in addiction and treatment research.

Kelly, an addiction researcher at Harvard and director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Recovery Research Institute, talked to the group of 30 or 40 top officials, he recalls, about how language can affect people's attitudes and behaviors about certain diseases and conditions. But at the end of his 90 minute talk, he says he just blurted this out. 

"I said, know 'I'm being bold here, but I think it's time that we do change the names of our institutes. If not now, when?'"

So, standing before a group of important people who run a major federal agency, which has carried the same name for four decades, Dr. Kelly basically asked them to get rid of their agency's name...because he says that word 'abuse' is outdated.

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, who died Dec. 25 at the age of 83, was considered one of the most influential psychiatrists of his generation. He headed the effort to more rigorously categorize mental disorders for the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), the handbook used by health care professionals.