People with drug addiction are much more likely to face stigma than those with mental illness because they’re seen as having a “moral failing,” according to a new survey.
The poll of more than 700 people across the United States also found that the public is less likely to approve of insurance, housing and employment policies meant to help people with drug addiction.
The study results suggest that many people consider drug addiction a personal vice rather than a treatable medical condition, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers.
“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 Colleen Barry, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management, said in a Hopkins news release.
“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,” she added.
The survey revealed that only 22 percent of people would be willing to work closely on a job with someone with a drug addiction, while 62 percent said they would do so with a person with a mental illness.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said employers should be able to refuse to employ people with a drug addiction, while 25 percent said the same about people with a mental illness. Forty-three percent of respondents said people with drug addiction should not be given the same health insurance benefits as the general public, while 21 percent felt the same about those with mental illness.
About 30 percent of respondents believed that recovery from either drug addiction or mental illness is impossible, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.
“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, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at Hopkins, said in the 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,” she added.