Connections between the folk psychiatry of addiction and levels of attributed stigma

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University of Alabama Libraries

Some serious health problems, such as addiction, can be highly stigmatized by others. Through different learning experiences and life events, people develop varying conceptions of the etiology of addiction. These sets of beliefs are referred to as “folk psychiatry” and can be understood as a guiding force behind public opinion. This study examines the knowledge individuals use to make judgments about individuals with substance-use disorder by positing a shared cultural model of addiction causality. This research was conducted among undergraduate students at the University of Alabama, as college students in the 18-25 age range are especially at risk for developing substance-use disorder due to binge drinking on college campus and other factors. As causes of addiction are heavily intertwined with biological, social, and political issues, this model aids in recognizing which realm of understanding maintains the highest saliency in laypeople’s conceptions of the development of substance use-disorder. The model consists of 28 causes distributed throughout five themes: Biomedical, Self-Medication, Familial, Social, and Hedonistic. Cultural consensus was found along three dimensions of the model: overall influence of causes, level of personal control over causes, and level of outsider influence on causes. Differing knowledge and understandings of the model of addiction causality and measures of political progressivism were shown to have significant effects on the level of attributed stigma towards individuals with substance use disorder.

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Cultural anthropology