Stigma keeps alcoholics from treatment

Dec. 5, 2010 at 12:20 AM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The stigma of alcoholism causes about two-thirds of people diagnosed with alcohol dependencies to shy away from treatment, U.S. researchers say.

Katherine Keyes of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health says people diagnosed with alcoholism at some point in their life are more than 60 percent less likely to seek treatment if they believe they would be stigmatized once their status is known.

The study involved a survey of 34,653 individuals in the general population -- 6,309 say they had an alcohol disorder -- drawn from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found people with an alcohol use disorder who perceived negative stigma were 0.37 times less likely to seek treatment compared with those with similarly serious alcohol disorders who did not perceive stigma.

"People with alcohol disorders who perceive high levels of alcohol stigma may avoid entering treatment because it confirms their membership in a stigmatized group," Katherine Keyes says in a statement.

"Given that alcohol use disorders are one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the United States, the empirical documentation of stigma as a barrier to treatment is an important public health finding."

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