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J Bioeth Inq. 2017 Jun;14(2):275-286. doi: 10.1007/s11673-017-9784-y. Epub 2017 May 3.

Stigma and Self-Stigma in Addiction.

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Plunkett Centre for Ethics, Centre for Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics, Australian Catholic University (ACU), Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry (IRCI), 7 Ice Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, NSW, 2010, Australia.
Social Studies of Addiction Concepts (SSAC) Research Program, National Drug Research Institute (Melbourne Office), Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Bentley, Australia.
Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing, College of Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.
Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Peter Debyeplein 1, 6229 HA, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Addictions are commonly accompanied by a sense of shame or self-stigmatization. Self-stigmatization results from public stigmatization in a process leading to the internalization of the social opprobrium attaching to the negative stereotypes associated with addiction. We offer an account of how this process works in terms of a range of looping effects, and this leads to our main claim that for a significant range of cases public stigma figures in the social construction of addiction. This rests on a social constructivist account in which those affected by public stigmatization internalize its norms. Stigma figures as part-constituent of the dynamic process in which addiction is formed. Our thesis is partly theoretical, partly empirical, as we source our claims about the process of internalization from interviews with people in treatment for substance use problems.


Addiction; Self-stigmatization; Shame; Stereotype; Stigma

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