Don’t Call Them Junkies

Junkie. What does that word conjure? Need I say more? Probably not, but I will.

How dehumanizing a term, just like all the others we use to put people we don’t understand, people who make us uncomfortable, in their place. Maybe such words don’t start out that way, but it’s what they become. We get this instant image, and the cringe that goes along with it. Or the apathy. Or the disdain. Usually the disdain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard/read something like, “He knew what he was doing when he put that needle in his arm.”

Yes. He did. He knew the horror. He knew the risk. And he did it anyway. Doesn’t that say a whole world of things that get dismissed shortly after the above is stated?

A friend recently sent me an article, and a link to a rally happening in DC this October, organized by Face Addiction. The video is compelling. After it came another video done by Chris Herren, former NBA basketball player and now a speaker for addiction recovery. I don’t agree with everything Mr. Herren advocates, but one thing he said really hit me. When he speaks to school groups, he looks out over the crowd of teens and asks, “What is it about you that you feel the need to change every Friday and Saturday night?”

This, this is the part that even within the community working so hard to combat this thing killing our loved ones gets overlooked. It is the most basic, fundamental answer necessary to change. What lies behind the choice to use drugs? Answer that, you’re on your way. Address it, you’re further. Conquer it, you’ve won.


Filed under Family

7 responses to “Don’t Call Them Junkies

  1. You’re so right, Terri. So often people who’ve never faced with addiction have little understanding of what it means. Using a derogatory term is sadly an outcome of that kind of thinking. Thank you for saying what needs to be said and hopefully enlightening a few people.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Thanks, Sharon. And sadly, people don’t realize how hurtful it is to use those terms. Junkie, faggot, racial slurs–words that instantly conjure the most derogatory images, further cementing them into our brains. Making them easily dismissed.


  2. sarahhegger

    Well said, Terri. The reason anonymous is tacked onto alcoholics, is because of people’s perception of weakness in the addict, or the judgment and discrimination which accompanies an addiction. Most addicts I know are A-type personalities and are harder on themselves than anyone else could be. Nobody chooses to be an addict,


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      If only people knew the constant fight, and how strong and brave one fighting it has to be. They only see the fall, never the triumphs of every day they didn’t.
      Love you.


  3. anfisher

    Don’t we call them junkies because the slang term for heroin is junk?


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Junk was an old slang term for any narcotic. “Junkie” came about in the 1920s. It never meant heroin strictly, though was certainly used as such. The problem is that the word became an automatic stereotype that allows an uncomfortable public to dismiss a whole lot of people they’d rather not deal with.


  4. Zach

    Dear Ms. DeFino,

    My name is Zach Wasser, I went to high school with your son, Chris. I didn’t know Chris, but I know a lot of people who did and they all said he was an awesome guy; I was sorry to hear of his passing. Heroin has taken hold of so many kids I went to school with, it’s been upsetting.

    I’m reaching out to you because I’m in journalism school now and I’m working on a long-form story about what’s been going on in New Milford. If you’re free, I’d love to talk — my email is

    And whether you want to participate or not, I also wanted to thank you for your writing on the issue of addiction. Your work has inspired me.

    Take care,


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