Care and prejudice: moving beyond mistrust in the care relationship with addicted patients

Med Health Care Philos. 2014 May;17(2):183-90. doi: 10.1007/s11019-013-9533-x.


Social representations of addiction and the resulting stigmatization have been widely described and studied in the literature, but their effects are no less problematic. These representations, which also occur in care settings, generate a climate of distrust which damages the therapeutic relationship, and its ethical quality. This article, combining clinical experience and an ethical stance, offers an original, innovating approach to the existence of distrust in care relationships in the area of addiction. Pragmatic approaches deriving from the human sciences and analytical philosophy provide an invitation to escape from the demanding climate of mistrust, and to take the gamble on trust so as to improve the quality of interactions between protagonists in care. In complementary fashion, a sociology of action can combat the disquiet generated by distrust through a new commitment to innovating forms of action. This "poetic" mode of action is legitimized by the reflection that backs it up, and by its presentation to peers qualified to approve it. Finally, continental moral philosophy underlines the importance of a carefully weighed commitment on the part of caregivers and addicted patients towards promises aiming to support a sincere care relationship, without damaging the therapeutic dynamic or the ethical quality by providing too many safety nets. This reflection is intended to achieve better identification of the clinical and ethical issues raised by mistrust, and inclusion of these aspects in the training of personnel and in care provision planning.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Physician-Patient Relations* / ethics
  • Stereotyping*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Trust / psychology*