A national survey finds Americans are significantly more likely to have a negative attitude about drug addiction than mental illness.
"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," said study leader Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "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."
The survey included a nationally representative sample of 709 participants who were asked about their attitudes toward either mental illness or drug addiction, Newswise reports.
The survey found 22 percent of respondents said they would be willing to work closely on the job with a person with a drug addiction, compared with 62 percent who said they would be willing to work with a person with mental illness.
Sixty-four percent said employers should be able to deny employment to people with a drug addiction, compared with 25 percent who said the same about a person with a mental illness. Forty-three percent said they opposed giving people with a drug addiction equivalent health insurance benefits to the public at large, compared with 21 percent who opposed giving the same benefits to people with mental illness.
The findings are published in 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, Ph.D. said in a 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."