Alcohol and Other Drugs: Stigma

CPD Hours: 0.5
Current as at 13 October 2021
Stigmatisation towards individuals with alcohol and other drugs is surprisingly common among drug and alcohol health professionals in Australia, which poses a key concern in providing therapy for this population of patients.

Tags:

“Understand the effects of stigma in healthcare”

Course Content

The term ‘stigmatisation’ has been defined as negative views attributed towards persons who are considered different compared to societal norms. Experience associated with stigmas can lead to low self-esteem, body image problems, depression, and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQoL).

Stigmatisation towards individuals with alcohol and other drugs is surprisingly common among drug and alcohol health professionals in Australia, which poses a key concern in providing therapy for this population of patients. When so compromised, the patient-provider relationship can cost the patient early termination of treatment, as anticipation of stigma is highlighted as a primary target for addressing treatment disengagement.

As healthcare professionals, we must be aware of the effects of stigmatisation of populations and we need to understand that stigmatisation is real in negatively affecting patient populations seeking care, and who are often positioned as not entitled to high-quality healthcare.

Patients who believe they are being stigmatised against, may experience suboptimal responses from the healthcare professional, therefore addressing stigma towards individuals is indeed a public health priority.

Given our Australian healthcare demands that through our nursing duty, we engage in person-centred care, we must strive to be mindful about a patient’s perception of our speech, behaviour, attitudes and impressions we give in relation to their alcohol or other addictions and treat them without prejudice.

Research has found that treatment is less successful when stigma follows the patient through the health system, it sets them back into disappointment and hopelessness and drives them away from those of us who can help. Indeed, research says that implicit bias, which practitioners are unaware of, and explicit bias, which they are aware of, can influence the choice of treatments offered to patients. Bias can ultimately lead to the provision of substandard care to some patients compared with others with the same clinical presentation. Because heuristics are unconscious and reinforced by repetition, they can be difficult to overcome once they are ingrained.

Learning Outcomes

In this session, you will:

  • Understand the effects of stigma in healthcare
  • Consider what factors shape the problems that lead to stigma
  • Learn how stigma can be addressed on a local level by health professionals
  • Discuss how policies and institutional structures can restrict opportunities for people with stigma
The Nursing CPD Institute

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