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The term “chronically relapsing brain disease” is intended to decrease stigma, but could it actually increase it?

May 14, 2021

A fascinating research has recently been published, which was summarised on the Recovery Research Institute website. The article looks at commonly used medical and non-medical terms that describe addiction to opioids to find out what terms produced attitudinal differences in relation to stigma within the general population. 

Some of the terms tested within the study are also commonly used in Australia, they include: chronically relapsing brain disease, brain disease, disease, illness, disorder and problem.  Interestingly, the results found that no one term was able to reduce stigma across all five areas tested (blame attribution, social exclusion, perceived danger, prognostic optimism and need for continuing care). The term “chronically relapsing brain disease”, was found to lower blame attribution but also decrease prognostic optimism, meaning people’s perception that the person would be able to recover decreased. It also increased perceptions the person was dangerous and should be socially excluded.

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