Disclosure, Stigma, and Social Support among Young People Receiving Treatment for Substance Use Disorders and their Caregivers: A Qualitative Analysis

Int J Ment Health Addict. 2019 Dec;17(6):1535-1549. doi: 10.1007/s11469-018-9930-8. Epub 2018 May 7.


Relational processes (i.e., disclosure, stigma, social support) experienced by youth with substance use disorders (SUDs) and their caregivers may act as barriers to, or facilitators of, recovery but are understudied. Single-session qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 patients and 15 caregivers recruited by clinicians from a SUD program. There was variability in disclosure experiences, including how many people knew about patients' SUD diagnosis and treatment, whether patients or caregivers primarily disclosed to others, and feelings about others knowing about one's or one's child's SUD treatment. After disclosing, patients and caregivers experienced stigmatizing (e.g., social rejection) and supportive (e.g., understanding, advice) reactions from others. Disclosures may have important implications for relationship and recovery-related outcomes. Moreover, some child-caregiver pairs have significant disagreements regarding disclosure of SUD treatment. Addressing relational processes within treatment by encouraging patients and caregivers to share the disclosure decision-making process may support the recovery of youth with SUDs.

Keywords: caregivers; qualitative; recovery; social support; stigma; substance use disorder; youth.