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How Alcoholics Are Perceived

Posted in Alcoholism

Alcoholics are not finished battling the disease when they reach sobriety. Their struggle continues with changing behaviors and social connections that might tempt them into a relapse, and often it is an ongoing, daily challenge not to relapse.

One area that also presents an ongoing challenge for alcoholics is the stigma that is associated with the disease. Many alcoholics feel that their identity is tied to alcohol not only in their own mind, but always present in minds of others as well. Alcoholics may feel that they are often required to prove that their identity is more complex than the stereotypes offered to describe the typical alcoholic.

A recent study looked at the effects of stigma on alcoholics. Smith, Dawson, Goldstein and Grant examined how a former alcoholic deals with the negativity of the disease. The researchers looked at perceived alcoholism stigma effect on racial-ethnic disparities in treatment and quality of life among alcoholics.

The objective of the study was to investigate racial-ethnic differences in a perceived stigmatization of recovering alcoholics and how associations of race-ethnicity were affected. The effects on treatment history and psychological function were also examined as they applied to lifetime alcoholics.

The researchers used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. The data was collected from Waves 1 and 2 of the survey, which was a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine associations within the data.

The study’s results show that stigma scores were lowest for White and Native Americans. Higher scores were shown for Blacks, but the highest stigma scores were indicated for Asians and Hispanics, both within the total population and among lifetime alcoholics.

There was not an association found between race-ethnicity or stigma and treatment utilization.

Psychological function was found to be associated with stigma. The effect of stigma on racial-ethnic differences in psychological function was not found to be statistically significant.

The results of the study indicate that stigma may reduce the overall quality of life for alcoholics. However, there is no clear indication that stigma affects the quality of life in the area of racial-ethnic differences.

The findings of the study are important for treatment centers providing assistance to those struggling with an alcohol addiction. As the stigma associated with alcoholism is better understood, recovering alcoholics can be better counseled on how to achieve a higher quality of life despite their ongoing struggles with the many facets of alcoholism.