Purpose of review
To collect and update published information on the stigma
associated with substance abuse in nonclinical samples, which has not been recently reviewed.
Searching large databases, a total of only 17 articles were published since 1999, with the majority of studies conducted outside the United States. Using major stigma
concepts from a sociological framework (stereotyping, devaluation in terms of status loss, discrimination
, and negative emotional reactions), the studies reviewed predominantly indicated that the public holds very stigmatized views toward individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs), and that the level of stigma
was higher toward individuals with SUDs than toward those with other psychiatric disorders.
The prevalence of SUDs is increasing in the US general population, but these disorders remain seriously undertreated. Stigma
can reduce willingness of policymakers to allocate resources, reduce willingness of providers in nonspecialty settings to screen for and address substance abuse problems, and may limit willingness of individuals with such problems to seek treatment. All of these factors may help explain why so few individuals with SUDs receive treatment. Public education that reduces stigma
and provides information about treatment is needed.