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Friday, December 3, 2010

Stigma Prevents Addicts from Seeking Treatment

Let's face it, no one wants to be known to be an alcoholic or drug addict, especially by their peers; the stigmas associated with substance abuse are the main deterrents for people seeking help. The fact of the matter is that the majority of people do not fully understand the complex nature of addiction and that it is not a question of will power and is indeed a medical disease. This lack of understanding keeps addicts in the shadows, hiding their problems as long as they are capable. A study done by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health researchers found that people diagnosed with alcoholism in their lifetime were more than 60% less likely to seek treatment because they thought they would be stigmatized once their status is known.

"Based on a survey of 34,653 individuals in the general population (6,309 of whom had an alcohol use disorder) drawn from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), researchers found that individuals with an alcohol use disorder who perceived negative stigma were 0.37 times less likely to seek treatment for their disorder compared to individuals with similarly serious alcohol disorders who did not perceive stigma", reported PHYSORG.

Here is the data:
  • Younger people were less likely to seek help
  • Men felt like theirs was more stigma than women (38.1% vs. 37.7%)
  • Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic adults overall believed theirs was a higher mean stigma compared to Whites (39 % vs. 37%)
  • People with severe problems were able to look past stigma and seek treatment
  • People with lower income and education, or those who had been married in the past perceived stigma more
"People with alcohol disorders who perceive high levels of alcohol stigma may avoid entering treatment because it confirms their membership in a stigmatized group," said Katherine Keyes, PhD, in the Mailman School of Public Health Department Epidemiology. "Given that alcohol use disorders are one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the United States, the empirical documentation of stigma as a barrier to treatment is an important public health finding. Greater attention to reducing the stigma of having an alcohol disorder is urgently needed so that more individuals access the effective systems of care available to treat these disabling conditions."

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