Stigmatization of people with drug dependence in China: a community-based study in Hunan province

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014 Jan 1;134:285-289. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.10.015. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


Background: Drug abuse remains a serious problem in China, and has become a major threat to public health and social security. Since the issuance and enforcement of the new Anti-Drug law in 2008, the community has become the primary site for drug rehabilitation. However, the attitudes of members in community toward the people with drug use disorders are unclear.

Methods: A random sample of household respondents was studied in two communities in Hunan province in China. A total of 848 individuals participated (response rate 83.7%). Respondents initially were asked a set of questions about their knowledge about dug dependence, and then were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 vignette conditions. Three vignettes described different type of drug dependence meeting diagnostic criteria, and the fourth depicted a "normal person."

Results: Poor knowledge of drug dependence was common. Negative attitudes towards drug dependent people were widespread. Most respondents believed that drug dependence was caused by the person's own weak will (82.0%) and own hedonistic lifestyle (81.3%), and should be punished as illegal behavior (80.4%). The vast majority labeled the person with drug dependence as an addict, rated them as having undesirable characteristics, and expressed a strong desire for social distance. There were few socio-demographic predictors of both poor knowledge and negative attitudes.

Conclusions: A community-based rehabilitation program in China should take into account the widespread stigmatization of people with drug dependence.

Keywords: China; Drug dependence; Public attitude; Social distance; Stigma.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • China / ethnology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Self Report
  • Stereotyping*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Young Adult