What is it about?

To address potential pitfalls to solely biomedical messaging campaigns to combat substance use stigma, we explored how contact, an stigma-reducing mechanism, influences stigma. We discovered that beliefs in bad character as the root cause of substance use behavior were the driving force behind stigma. More importantly, for US healthcare professionals, these beliefs were significantly higher than in the US general population without personal contact but significantly lower with personal contact. Thus, rather than a pure biomedical framing, it may be beneficial to address substance use stigma by increasing narratives surrounding personal worth and overall humanness of people who struggle with these issues.

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Why is it important?

This work provides key insights into the process of stigmatization. Bad character beliefs play a mediating role in the stigma-reducing effects of personal contact; however, this is more notable for US healthcare workers. Thus, future work could consider interventions that aim to "re-humanize" people with substance use disorders, especially when doing interventions in healthcare settings.


This work represents a unique coalescence of psychology, sociology, medicine, and even philosophy. Consequently, we hope that these results are disseminated broadly to increase mental health literacy by deconstructing beliefs about who people are. Behaviors are not sole determinants of one's humanness, especially in the case of substance use disorder. We hope that these findings further ongoing efforts for stigma reduction and mental health promotion.

Lucas Hamilton
Augustana University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Contact reduces substance use stigma through bad character attributions, especially for U.S. health care professionals., Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, September 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/adb0000953.
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