How is acceptance of the brain disease model of addiction related to Australians' attitudes towards addicted individuals and treatments for addiction?


Journal Article

BACKGROUND: We investigated whether beliefs about addiction being a 'disease' or 'brain disease', and holding certain beliefs about addiction aetiology, are associated with public views about addicted persons and support for different types of treatment, coerced treatment and punishment for addiction. METHODS: Data were collected as part of the 2012 Queensland Social Survey, a computer assisted telephone interview of 1263 residents of Queensland, Australia. Participants were presented with scenarios of two addicted males, one who was addicted to heroin and the other addicted to alcohol. Participants were then asked a series of questions for both characters. RESULTS: There was widespread support for all treatment modalities (alcohol: 80.8-98.0%, heroin: 89.9-97.2%). There was less support for coerced treatment for alcohol than heroin addiction (alcohol: 41%, heroin: 71%, χ(2) = 273.90, p < 0.001). Being 35 years of age or older (alcohol: OR = 0.58 (0.37-0.91), heroin: OR = 0.49 (0.28-0.85)) and having 15 or more years of education (alcohol: OR = 0.60 (0.44-0.81), heroin: 0.55 (0.40-0.75)) predicted less support for coerced treatment. 31.7% of respondents agreed heroin use should be punished by imprisonment and being 35 years of age or older (OR = 0.51 (0.33-0.80)) predicted lack of support. The sample agreed that an alcohol or heroin dependent person would suffer career damage (alcohol: 96.2%, heroin: 98.9%), marriage breakdown (alcohol: 92.2%, heroin: 97.3%) and get in trouble with the law (alcohol: 92.3%, heroin: 98.9%). Respondents expressed more comfort with encountering alcohol rather than heroin addicted persons in the workplace or at a dinner party. Beliefs that addiction was a 'brain disease' or a 'disease' did not predict any of these attitudes. Beliefs about addiction aetiology were inconsistent predictors of outcomes measured. CONCLUSIONS: Age and educational attainment were the most consistent predictors of stigmatising beliefs and beliefs about coercion and punishment. Beliefs that addiction is a 'disease' or a 'brain disease' were not associated with an overall reduction in beliefs about stigma, coercion or punishment. Beliefs in different causes of addiction were not consistent predictors of beliefs about stigma, coercion or punishment.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Meurk, C; Carter, A; Partridge, B; Lucke, J; Hall, W

Published Date

  • January 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 /

Start / End Page

  • 373 -

PubMed ID

  • 25539621

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25539621

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-244X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1471-244X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s12888-014-0373-x


  • eng