Drug addiction and mental illness are both daunting things to struggle with, but people facing drug addiction face a much stronger stigma than their mentally ill counterparts, recent research out of Johns Hopkins suggests. For example: while 62 percent of people said they’d be willing to work closely with a fellow employee who had mental illness, only 22 percent felt the same way about addicts.
Hopkins researchers surveyed 709 people about their attitudes toward mental illness and drug addiction. Even though the disease model of addiction — in which drug addiction is considered a disease — is quite common, addicts are viewed much more negatively. “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,” study leader and Hopkins professor Colleen Barry told the Hopkins Hub. “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.”
One consequence of such societal opprobrium? Addicts who feel a sense of shame may be less likely to seek help, another of the study authors points out.