There are 23 million individuals who meet the criteria for a substance use disorder in the
U.S., and the economic cost attributable to substance use from lost productivity, healthcare
expenditures, and criminal justice involvement is about $600 billion annually (Kelly, Saitz, &
Wakeman, 2016). However, only a small fraction of individuals receive some form of help for
their substance use disorder in any given year. One of the barriers to seeking and receiving help
is stigma. In addition, higher stigma towards individuals with opioid use disorder is associated
with greater public support for punitive policies and lower support for health-oriented policies
such as increased government spending.
Patients with addiction continue to suffer from the stigma associated with the disease.
They fear judgment and mistreatment when they encounter the medical system. Research
revealed that one contributory factor to the perpetuation of stigma is the type of language we use.
Language is a powerful force in modifying attitudes and behavior among the public, health
professionals, and policy makers. Moreover, the terminology used by the press determines the
terminology used and the views held by the general population, politicians, and civil servants.
Through the lens of stigma theory and labeling theory, this study used a systematic review of the
literature to answer the question: What is the role of language in stigmatizing or destigmatizing
opioid addiction? The evidence indicated that there are several opportunities for language to
impact the stigma of addiction: in individual language, the media, healthcare providers and
medical records, and in policy and the criminal justice system. Although the scholarly literature
would benefit from additional empirical studies on the relationship between language and opioid
addiction, the existing scholarly literature in addition to grey literature found that using language
that demonstrates an understanding and acceptance of the disease model of addiction will go a
long way toward improving the medical treatment of patients struggling with this challenging
disease. The community and the media can be informed through communication strategies,
which could include sympathetic narratives, messages without blame, and messages highlighting
structural barriers. Increasing public support for policies and raising awareness by providing
information to promote change can help facilitate legislative policy advocacy. Change in the
workplace culture that reduces stigma and supports recovery can be implemented by training
employers and employees to understand that opioid addiction is preventable and treatable.
|Commitee:||Sherlock, John, Wagner, Debra|
|School:||University of Maryland University College|
|Department:||School of Business|
|School Location:||United States -- Maryland|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Business administration, Behavioral psychology|
|Keywords:||Addiction, Drug misuse, Language, Opioids, Stigma, Terminology|
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