Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe, July 2016

To the Editor:

We applaud the Globe’s coverage of the epicenter of Boston’s opioid crisis (“Life and Loss On Methadone Mile”) for showing the human faces of some of the most disenfranchised and stigmatized people in our Commonwealth. The residents of “Methadone Mile” are those that have been hardest hit by lack of treatment beds and inadequate funding for recovery services, and are disproportionately poor, people of color, and LGBTQ community members.  We also applaud police efforts to divert people away from the criminal justice system, as criminalization will only result in more criminal records for vulnerable groups without reducing the drug trade.

We object, however, to some of the stigmatizing language used by the Globe. For instance, referring to people as “clean” implies those still struggling with addiction–a chronic medical disease–are “dirty.” Furthermore, calling methadone “just another addiction” is both stigmatizing and inaccurate. Clinical trials have shown that the most effective duration of methadone or buprenorphine is lifelong. We would never say a diabetic using insulin daily is “addicted,” and the same should go for those using medications to treat their substance use disorder. Language creates stigma, and stigma leads to poor outcomes for the most marginalized of our society.

Andy Hyatt, Medical Student, Boston University School of Medicine

Rebecca Lee, Medical Student, Tufts University School of Medicine

Andreas Mitchell, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

Student Coalition on Addiction Members

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