Stigma, discrimination, treatment effectiveness, and policy: public views about drug addiction and mental illness

Psychiatr Serv. 2014 Oct;65(10):1269-72. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: Public attitudes about drug addiction and mental illness were compared.

Methods: A Web-based national survey (N=709) was conducted to compare attitudes about stigma, discrimination, treatment effectiveness, and policy support in regard to drug addiction and mental illness.

Results: Respondents held significantly more negative views toward persons with drug addiction. More respondents were unwilling to have a person with drug addiction marry into their family or work closely with them. Respondents were more willing to accept discriminatory practices against persons with drug addiction, more skeptical about the effectiveness of treatments, and more likely to oppose policies aimed at helping them.

Conclusions: Drug addiction is often treated as a subcategory of mental illness, and insurance plans group them together under the rubric of "behavioral health." Given starkly different public views about drug addiction and mental illness, advocates may need to adopt differing approaches to reducing stigma and advancing public policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • Social Discrimination / psychology*
  • Social Discrimination / statistics & numerical data
  • Stereotyping*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome