The Impact of Indigenous Identity and Treatment Seeking Intention on the Stigmatization of Substance Use

Abstract

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are one of the most stigmatized mental health issues. There is a disproportionate burden of SUDs and related harms on Indigenous peoples in Canada. This study examined public stigma toward SUDs and if the degree of stigma would change as a result of Indigenous identity and treatment seeking intention. Participants (N = 711) were randomly assigned to read one of four vignettes depicting a person living with a SUD and then completed an online survey. Vignettes differed on the character’s ethnicity (Caucasian vs. First Nations) and their treatment seeking intention (seeking treatment vs. not seeking treatment). Participants then completed a series of questionnaires to assess stigma. Significant main effects of both ethnicity and treatment seeking were found on all three outcome measures of stigma. Specifically, participants assigned a vignette depicting a First Nations person responded with more stigmatizing attitudes and participants assigned a vignette of a person not seeking treatment responded with more stigmatizing attitudes. Implications for these findings are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Indigenous peoples is a collective term referring to people in Canada who identify as either Métis, First Nations or Inuit. Aboriginal Peoples was previously the most commonly used term in Canada.

  2. 2.

    Intergenerational trauma refers to the passing of trauma through generations of a family or community.

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Correspondence to Nick Harris.

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The first author was supported in part by a scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Appendix

Appendix

Vignettes

A description of a [First Nations OR Caucasian] man, named Jack, follows. Recently, Jack had started to drink much more than his usual amount of alcohol. In fact, he had noticed that he needs to drink twice as much as he used to in order to get the same effect. If Jack went too long without having a drink, he became very agitated, sweaty, and could not fall asleep, so he had another drink. Although his friends and family insisted that he drank too much, Jack argued that he remained in control. His family has complained that he is often hungover and has become unreliable. A few months ago, he was involved in a serious car accident, where he wrote off two cars. The police who arrived at the scene of the accident took his blood for alcohol analysis. As his alcohol level was much higher than the legal limit, he was charged with drunk driving. At that point, Jack’s family encouraged him to see a doctor. [Jack recognized that he needed help. With the help of his doctor, he sought out a detox program to address his problem. OR Jack refused, and insisted that he did not have a problem with alcohol.]

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Winters, E., Harris, N. The Impact of Indigenous Identity and Treatment Seeking Intention on the Stigmatization of Substance Use. Int J Ment Health Addiction 18, 1403–1415 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00162-6

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Keywords

  • Substance use
  • Indigenous
  • Treatment seeking
  • Stigma