Examining the Ramifications of CDC’s “Banned Words” for Addiction Care

CDC Banned Words

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a list of banned words to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention ahead of the agency’s 2019 budget proposal. Among these words are “transgender”, “diversity”, “vulnerable”, “science-based, “evidence-based” and more. The story has garnered widespread criticism and raises a variety of questions not only about broader speech-restriction implications, but also on the credibility of HHS, the Trump Administration’s true level of interest in talking about public health and whether a genuine conversation can take place without touchstone words like these. What’s been less reported, however, is the specific impact that the prohibition of these words will mean for the addiction treatment industry. At a time in which more and more Americans are succumbing to drug abuse and addiction, is it really the time to start limiting the conversation around treatment…is it ever?

The reality is that, when we strip away all political connotations and agendas, the term “evidence-based” is a real and widely used term in the treatment landscape used to identify what modalities work and what don’t in substance abuse care. It’s one of the phrases that, for so long, has let prospective patients and their loved ones know that they’re getting care from a reputable source; at term that lets people in, what is perhaps the most vulnerable state they’ll ever be, know their chosen method of care has been established, vetted, analyzed and refined by industry professionals. When he start prohibiting delivering lists of banned words to the nation’s prevailing authority on public health, an agency whose findings has guided the addiction treatment industry for decades, we devalue that delegitimize the agency’s role and cripple the ability to have an honest scientific conversation.

Earlier in his term, and at several points during his campaign, President Trump signaled an enthusiastic willingness to combat the out-of-control opioid crisis that has consumed the United States, this list of banned words seems to indicate, at the very least, a step back from this goal; at the very most, a refusal to accept and rely on proven and long-held scientific practices. Recovery Unplugged will continue to provide evidence-based, music-focused care to all our patients and strive to make further scientific contributions to substance abuse care. We understand the role of science in advancing the substance abuse treatment evolution and are deeply committed to providing best possible care for drug and alcohol addiction.