Where Stigma Lurks

  • Remember when we talked about public and institutional stigma? That is where stigma lurks. Often creeping through as implicit bias.
  • By now we should all hopefully be familiar with the work of John Kelly and his team at the Recovery Research Institute. Their pioneering work evaluated workforce attitudes using using a case study with two conditions. In one condition, the depiction of someone struggling with addiction was referred to the person as a “substance abuser,” In the other, the person was described as having a “substance use disorder”.
  • These descriptions were randomly assigned to 600 doctoral-level clinicians who then answered a series of questions including whether the person should be punished or treated, whether he should be blamed for his condition, and whether he was a threat. This experiment was replicated with the general population. Both groups demonstrated that findings associated with “substance abuser” tended toward punitive attitudes than those associated with “substance use disorder”.
  • WHO study of 18 most stigmatized social problems in 14 countries:
  • Drug addiction ranked number 1
  • Alcohol addiction ranked number 4
  • We know stigma is a huge issue in addiction because it is the number one reason for why people who know they need treatment don’t access it. We also know from studies across the world that drug addiction is the single most stigmatized condition on earth– more than having HIV or being a criminal.”