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What CDC Forbidden Words List Means for Addiction Rehab

Posted on 12/27/17: Addiction Recovery

Shock and awe was delivered to the Health and Human Services department of the federal government before the 2017 year ended. When the Washington Post caught wind of the story, they ran with it – eyes wide open and journalistic guns blazing. The news wasn’t pretty. Turns out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) received a list of forbidden words. (Heaven forbid I utter them here.) While various large news agencies are quick to jump on how offensive this move by the Trump administration is, I thought it would be worth looking at this move from a different perspective. Going forward, does the CDC forbidden words list potentially compromise addiction rehab programs?

The Best Offense Is a Good Defense

Recently, I heard media celebrity Geraldo Rivera (like him or not) and long-time friend of President Trump, explain his ways and means like this: “He believes that the best offense is a good defense.” For whatever reason, that statement sat with me. I thought on it for quite some time. Then I applied it to the CDC snafu.

Lawyer Up Early

The CDC forbidden word list includes seven words but let’s focus on those words that were officially put in writing: vulnerable, entitlement and diversity. From a legal point, if it isn’t in writing… it doesn’t exist.

Though the other forbidden words (transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based) seem to have gotten more traction in public outcry for injustice, the reasons are obvious. These terms evoke discomfort in subjects relative to their discussion. Gender-based initiatives (public bathrooms), right to life vs. right to choose, fall neatly into the forbidden terminology. Scientists will not take kindly to hushing the use of evidence- and science-based in their documentation. Their livelihood, research and funding rely on them.

The CDC forbidden list is about the following:

  1. What initiatives are going to be publicly funded and what is not
  2. How does the federal government cover their a**

In business, it’s all about how you protect yourself from liability, also known as CYA. If President Trump is a businessman and he is running the government like a business (no surprise there), this list is a business maneuver.

Dialing It Back

After the initial panic set in, other media outlets provided mild retractions or moderate explanations to help ease the outrage. Did the White House contribute to creating a safer spin? Probably. It took a couple of days before CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald spoke out, changing the story, offering that no banned words exist and science remains a forefront of the agency’s commitment.

Forbidden Words Silently Scream a Bigger Truth

freedom of speech in chainsIf tax “reform” happens, there’s a cost. Perhaps forbidden words offer a way to cut budgets to help pay for bills and programs, whether the people like it or not. Perhaps forbidden words help the government sidestep their culpability in the opioid epidemic. Perhaps forbidden words are thrown out to the public like target practice – whichever sticks, that’s what they’ll go with.

  • Entitlement
  • Vulnerable
  • Diversity

Look at these words. What do they mean to you? Imagine what they mean to someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. Consider what they mean to a mother or father, watching their adult child cascade downward, deeper in the darkness of heroin abuse. How do these words affect a woman, married to her husband for 30 years, painfully watching him sink from pain and overuse of prescription pills to get through another day.

Budgetary Restraints Imprison the Sick

Currently, the CDC works off a $7 billion budget. A budget report issued in January 2017 from the Office of National Drug Control Policy revealed its 2015 figures on how it allocated funds to help fight the drug war. In total, the federal government set aside $28.8 billion. Though four months later, in May of the same year, another report was issued with revised numbers, lower that the first. Approximately $3 billion was shaved from the report. Where did that money go? Of those funds, only $9.55 billion were spent on drug and alcohol treatment programs. Since 2015, drug addiction (largely due to the opioid epidemic) has skyrocketed. How can we manage with fewer treatment resources when the disease of addiction has grown across the country?

We Need Your Voice

The CDC supports case studies and other medical research in hopes of better understanding the nature of addiction and how we can best combat it.

If the U.S. government prohibits the use of the words entitlement, vulnerable, and diversity, this is how it could play out.

  1. Are there current entitlement programs for addiction treatment that are federally sponsored?
  2. Are there government workers, that, through their federal employment, are eligible for entitlement programs (addiction treatment and recovery)?
  3. Are illegitimate addiction treatment, rehab and sober living houses preying on the vulnerable? If so, (and there are some) let’s shut the industry down with more regulations or remove addiction treatment funding so that it’s a private medical matter.
  4. Addiction affects people from all cultures, socio-economic backgrounds. In fact, the research and science-based findings are not often clear-cut, with wide ranges in evidence and summary findings. This defines The federal government can’t be saddled with supporting diversity issues.

Flagging the use of certain words in the 2018 budget documents and the 2019 federal policy has everything to do with money. But for the people who will be affected by this subversion of their reality, like those seeking addiction treatment or currently in recovery programs, there is just cause for concern.


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

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