More Negative Attitudes Toward Addiction Than Mental Illness

SurveyThe disease of addiction affects countless people in the United States; there is hardly a family that has not been touched by the disease in one way or another. While views surrounding the disease have come a long way, from total ostracization to an understanding that addiction is a form of mental illness, many Americans have a more negative attitude towards those suffering from addiction than those with other forms of mental illness, according to a national survey.

The findings come from a survey that included a nationally representative sample of 709 participants. The participants were asked about their attitudes toward mental illness and drug addiction, Newswise reports.

“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,” said study leader Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “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.”

With addiction the survey showed:

  • 22 percent said they would be willing to work closely with a person with a drug addiction.
  • 64 percent said employers should be able to deny employment to people with addiction.
  • 43 percent said they opposed giving people with a drug addiction equivalent health insurance benefits to the public at large.

With mental illness the survey showed:

  • 62 percent said they would be willing to work closely with a person with mental illness.
  • 25 percent said employers should be able to deny employment to a person with a mental illness.
  • 21 percent were opposed to giving the same health insurance benefits to people with mental illness.

“The more shame associated with drug addiction, the less likely we as a community will be in a position to change attitudes and get people the help they need,” study co-author Beth McGinty, Ph.D. said in a news release. “If you can educate the public that these are treatable conditions, we will see higher levels of support for policy changes that benefit people with mental illness and drug addiction.”

The findings are published in the journal Psychiatric Services.