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Journal Article


Ledford V, Lim JR, Namkoong K, Chen J, Qin Y. Health Commun. 2021; ePub(ePub): ePub.


(Copyright © 2021, Informa Healthcare)






Drug overdose is a leading cause of injury and death in the United States, and opioids are among the most significant of causes. For people with opioid use disorders (OUDs), opioid stigma can lead to devastating consequences, including anxiety and depression. Still, mass media may stigmatize people with OUDs by ascribing stigmatizing labels (e.g., "opioid addict") and other stigma features to those individuals. However, it is unclear how these stigmatizing messages influence public perceptions of people with OUDs and public support for rehabilitation and Naloxone administration policies. The model of stigma communication (MSC) provides a framework for understanding these relationships. This study used the MSC in two online factorial experiments, the first among college undergraduates (N = 231) and the second among Amazon Mechanical Turk workers (N = 245), to examine how stigmatizing messages about people with OUDs influence stigma-related outcomes.

RESULTS reveal that opioid stigma messages influence different outcomes depending on the content of those messages. Classification messages with a stigmatizing mark (e.g., "Alex appears unkempt") and label (e.g., "opioid addict") led to greater perceptions of dangerousness and threat in both studies. High stigma classification messages also led to an increased desire for behavioral regulation and social distance in Study 2. Structural equation modeling in Study 1 also supported the applicability of the MSC in the opioid context. Implications for health communication theory development and practice are discussed.

Language: en


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