Keywords: Stigma | Addictive Behaviors
Presentation Type: Symposium
Addictions are highly stigmatized and increasingly construed as biomedical diseases caused by genes, partly to reduce stigma by deflecting blame. But genetic explanations may have negative effects. Also, it is unclear how the effects of genetic explanations for addiction might differ by the particular addiction in question or by demographics (e.g., race) of the sufferer.
Here, participants read about a person ("Charlie"), described as either White or African-American and as suffering from 1 of 3 addictions (alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, or gambling disorder), a non-addictive mental disorder (major depression), or a physical illness (glaucoma). They either received a genetic explanation of Charlie’s problem or were told that it was not genetic but instead due to environmental causes. They rated how much they blamed Charlie for his disorder, his likelihood of benefitting from medication or psychotherapy, and how much agency they ascribed him.
A 2 (race) × 2 (genetic vs. nongenetic) × 5 (disorder) multivariate ANOVA revealed participants in the genetic (vs. nongenetic) condition blamed Charlie less for his disorder but rated him as having less agency and as less likely to benefit from psychotherapy. There was a significant explanation × disorder interaction for medication-effectiveness ratings; these were higher in the genetic (vs. nongenetic) condition only for gambling disorder.
There were also main effects of disorder on blame ratings (higher for all three of the addictions than for glaucoma or depression) and psychotherapy-effectiveness ratings (unsurprisingly, lower for glaucoma than for any other disorder).
There was a significant race × disorder interaction for agency scores. Charlie was ascribed more agency when suffering from an addiction than when suffering from glaucoma (regardless of race) or depression (only when African-American).
Overall, a person with an addiction was blamed for his problems more than one with depression or a physical illness. A genetic explanation reduced blame but diminished perceived agency and faith in the effectiveness of non-biomedical treatment. Genetic explanations for addiction appear to be a “double-edged sword".
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Friday, November 17
10:15 AM – 11:45 AM
The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.