Sonja Styblo from our general advisory board talks about the importance of language and why the term cold turkey can be problematic.
Why is the term “cold turkey” confusing to prescribers and outsiders?
As noted in the video, there are other issues of contention beyond just the addiction language associated with the term cold turkey. What survivors often deem to be a “cold turkey” is considered to be a “taper” by many medical professionals! It’s not uncommon for patients to be informed by their prescriber that a few day cessation is a “slow taper”. Other benzodiazepine prescribed patients who have not yet attempted a discontinuation may also get confused by this nonspecific language.
What do we suggest instead?
When speaking publicly to prescribers and outsiders, give precisely the amount of time it took to come off the medication. “My provider rapidly tapered me over a week.” “I came off abruptly over 2 days.”
Are we language policing?
We don’t think so. We understand many may prefer to continue to use the term. We just ask to be mindful of those who may misunderstand the term, especially in spaces that may influence the public. We are all advocating for better understanding about benzodiazepine harm, including more precise communication about harm, in the best way we know how. At BIC we’ve observed so many in the medical field uneducated about benzodiazepines and the need for safer, slower tapers, so advocating for specific, intentional language is warranted. We worry that calling what many in the medical field deem as a taper a “cold turkey” without qualification only serves to maintain the field’s existing belief that benzodiazepines are only harmful when discontinued abruptly. We can help doctors and the public learn with our careful choices in language.