Send to

Choose Destination
J Psychoactive Drugs. 1993 Jul-Sep;25(3):193-205.

Stigma or legitimation? A historical examination of the social potentials of addiction disease models.

Author information

National Institutes of Health Historical Office, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


This article presents a historical discussion of disease models of opiate addiction in the United States in the twentieth century. First, several approaches to defining disease are discussed. Then, the shifts in formulations of opiate addiction as a disease in the twentieth century in the U.S. are analysed in light of the preceding theoretical discussion. The period before 1920 is described as heterodox, as researchers attempted to develop scientific models of opiate addiction, while various medically legitimate and quasi-legitimate treatment approaches flourished in an unregulated marketplace. After 1920, a stigmatizing disease model of opiate addiction was based on a psychiatric formulation that linked chronic addiction with psychoneurotic deficits in certain individuals. After 1940, this model dominated medical and scientific thinking about opiate addiction for several decades. After 1970, enormous changes in the demographics of drug use forced changes to the prevailing model of addiction. A new focus on behavioral aspects of addiction allowed the creation of a nonstigmatizing Parsonian disease model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center