Patients suffering from mental disorders and especially substance-use disorders (SUDs) are often stigmatized by both lay individuals and health professionals, which may lead to poorer treatment outcomes. The purpose of this study was to assess the level of stigma against alcohol and drug users among lay respondents and actors of healthcare.
Materials and methods
An online questionnaire was filled out by a total of 148 participants from three subgroups: (a) 25 addictology professionals, (b) 55 emergency care professionals, and (c) 68 lay individuals outside healthcare. The questionnaire contained standardized scales measuring the severity of substance use, authoritarianism, and own items assessing demographics, attitude towards substance users, and substance-related knowledge.
A more accepting attitude towards drug users was explained by the respondents’ own substance use (β = 4.52, p < .01) and knowledge in addictology (β = 2.22, p = .05). Repeated encounters with substance users only showed connection with destigmatization in case of positive experiences. Emergency care professionals were characterized by the most stigmatizing attitude towards substance users.
Our results partially support Allport’s contact hypothesis. We emphasize the need of a continuous sensitizing program targeting emergency care professionals in order to change their attitude towards SUD patients.