Adolescent Stigma Towards Drug Addiction

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Adolescent Stigma Towards Drug Addiction

Ashley Bower

Chapman University

Adolescent Stigma Towards Drug Addiction

Introduction
The impact of stigma in today’s society is not studied enough, however, it should be because of the effects it can have on a persons life decisions. It is defined as a negative or shameful characteristic, more specifically, one that indicates a sign of disorder (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2011). The article addresses how individuals who abuse drugs are likely to receive a worse stigma than those who struggle with a mental illness. This is believed to be because civilization fails to recognize drug addiction as an actual medical disorder, and instead views addiction as an act of personal choice. Due to this way of thinking, those who abuse drugs are seen as responsibly at fault for their disorder and are ultimately more likely to suffer from purposeful social avoidance opposed to individuals who are diagnosed with a specific mental illness (Adlaf, Hamilton, Wu, & Noh, 2009).

Unfortunately, much of the research that has been conducted on stigma is solely centered on mental illness and because of this there is a lack of research pertaining to knowledge of drug stigma relative to adolescence. According to Adlaf et al. (2009), the main subject matter of all drug stigma research is primarily focused on adults. The idea of a drug stigma among adolescents is often overlooked. However, with what little research that has been done regarding adolescents and drug stigma, the studies have concluded that those who suffer from drug addiction are generally viewed negatively by adolescents.

The objective of this study was to gauge adolescent's age in relation to negative attitudes towards drug use and addiction. The question of whether or not stigma plays a role in promoting or deterring usage was also lightly touched upon. Everyday behavior as an adolescent is determined by the way an individual views things and because of that stigmas lead to decisions that affect adulthood. Adolescence is a time period in which teens are heavily influenced by their social surroundings. For example, factors such as peer pressure and personal experience may aide in discouraging teens to dismiss anti-drug messages. In addition, individuals who are exposed to drug use by a family member or friend may have a harder time stigmatizing against drug usage and consequently, a person’s desire to distance themselves from drug users may decrease (Adlaf et al., 2009).

Method
Sample
As stated by Adlaf et al. (2009), the data for this study was gathered using self-administered questionnaires consisting of a two-stage cluster design (school, class). These surveys were distributed to 4,078 students who attended either a regular public or Catholic school and ranged from 12 to 19 years of age, or in other words, 7th-12th graders. This sample ultimately omitted those who attended alternate schools (7%). The questionnaires provided included questions regarding gambling, mental health, physical health, delinquent behavior, and substance abuse and consisted of a two-stage cluster design (school, class). Though the entire 2005 cycle of the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey was based on a total of 7,726 students, the stigma questions on the self-administered surveys were only given to half (4,078) of those total subjects. These students were selected at random and completed the questionnaires inside of their classroom. Due to reasons of non-completion such as absenteeism (12%) and the absence of parental consent (16%), the final completion rates of these student self-administered questionnaires were 94% and 72%.

Measures
The stigma adolescents had concerning drug addiction was based off of four questions they were asked: Would you be afraid to talk to someone who was addicted to drugs? Would you be upset or disturbed to be in the same class with someone who is addicted to drugs? Would you make friends with someone who is...
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