Examining how our understanding of addiction affects how we think about and treat people with drug addictions
Prominent proponents argue that neurobiological explanations of addiction will reduce the stigma and discrimination that many people experience. Stigma can be a potent barrier to treatment and cause additional stress and negative self-perceptions that maintains and increases addictive behaviour. However, recent research suggests that acceptance of brain-disease explanations may actually increase stigma. This project explores the impact of different causal explanations (e.g. brain disease, genetic, moral choice, social disease) of addiction on stigma, both external (e.g. discrimination) and internal (e.g. self-image), treatment seeking behaviour, drug use, self-efficacy and support for policies and social initiatives to reduce the harms and incidence of drug use and addiction.
The aim of the project is to assist the development of health promotion materials and clinical education materials that reduce stigma and promote healthy and fulfilling lifestyles. The project employs social science methods (e.g. validated survey instruments, vignette approaches, and behavioural experiments) to measure mental illness stigma and assess the impact of different ways of reducing stigma, increase self-efficacy and healthy choices.
The project is conducted with colleagues at the School of Social Sciences, Monash University, University of British Columbia, Canada, and Duke University.