Saturday, October 4, 2008
Addiction: The Stigma Lives On
Would you live next door to a drug addict?
A telephone survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shows that public attitudes toward addiction and recovery are still laced with negativity.
Undertaken as part of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, the survey was released in late September. For all the positive spin SAMHSA puts on the findings—emphasizing that only a fifth of survey respondents said they would think less of a friend or relative who was in recovery from addiction--the telephone survey also showed that negative attitudes and stigmas associated with drug and alcohol addiction are slowly waning—but still demonstrably present. People continue to view alcohol addiction differently than drug addiction. Only about 60 per cent of Americans said they would be comfortable living next door to someone in recovery from alcohol abuse. In contrast, (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shows that public attitudes toward addiction and recovery are still laced with negativity. Less than half of the respondents said they would be comfortable living next door to someone in recovery from drug abuse.
In addition, the public remains split on the role of “willpower” in treatment and recovery from addiction: “Slightly less than half of the general public (44%) believes that people who are addicted to alcohol could stop using the substance if they had enough willpower. Even fewer (38%) believe that people who are addicted to drugs could stop using them if they had enough willpower. However, two population segments with statistically significant differences from the general public are African Americans and young adults age 18 to 24. Both groups are much more likely than other population categories to believe addiction can be stopped by willpower.”
Other evidence of addiction stigmas:
• “Almost one-third would think less of a person with a current addiction.”
• “Almost three-quarters of young adults agree with the statement that people who are addicted to alcohol could stop if they had enough willpower. Twice as many young adults age 18 to 24 believe that willpower could play a decisive role in recovery from addiction than does the general population.”
• “In general, the older a person is, the more likely he or she is to think less of someone who is in recovery from drugs or alcohol, and the less likely he or she is to feel comfortable with someone in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse. In general, respondents are more comfortable with someone in recovery from alcohol abuse than drug addiction."
• Overall, respondents feel that persons who are addicted to illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin are much more of a danger to society than those addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs, or marijuana.”
• “Females are much more likely than males to agree that individuals who are addicted to any of the substances mentioned in the survey are dangers to society. This is particularly true in relation to alcohol addictions.”
• “Women are more likely than men to agree that a person in recovery from an addiction to prescription drugs or illicit drugs can live a productive life.”
• “Respondents see programs to help people with addictions to alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs more favorably than treatment programs designed to help people with addictions to illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines.”