Poll Indicates Americans View Addiction As Moral Failing

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Americans are likely to view those suffering from drug addiction more negatively than those with mental illness.

Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues conducted a national survey of more than 700 participants about their attitudes on drug addiction in areas such as stigma, treatment and public policy.

Just 22% of respondents said they would be willing to work closely with a person with drug addiction, compared to 62% who said they would be willing to work with someone with mental illness, the researchers reported in Psychiatric Services.

Also, 64% said that employers should be able to not hire people with a drug addiction compared to 25% with a mental illness. And about 30% of respondents believe recovery from either a mental illness or drug addiction is impossible.

“While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition,” Barry said in a statement. “In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one’s struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal.”

An understanding of ?substance use disorder?
Poll Indicates Americans View Addiction As Moral Failing

People are significantly more likely to have negative attitudes toward those suffering from drug addiction than those with mental illness, and don't support insurance, housing, and employment policies that benefit those dependent on drugs, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.

A report on the findings, which appears in the October issue of the journal Psychiatric Services, suggests that society seems not to know whether to regard substance abuse as a treatable medical condition akin to diabetes or heart disease, or as a personal failing to be overcome.

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