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Monday, March 26, 2012

Perceptions of addiction and recovery in Sweden: The influence of respondent characteristics

Respondents to a representative population survey were asked to rate four psychoactive substances (tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and ‘hard’ drugs) with regard to their severity to society and addictiveness, as well as the options for recovery, with and without treatment, from an addiction to the same substances.

This article explores if and how these ratings differ with regard to respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics, their own and close persons’ substance use experiences, and, their attitudes towards people with substance use problems.

Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and logistic or linear regressions.

Although the main difference goes between respondents’ perceptions of various substances and addictions, the results also point to some interesting differences with regard to respondents’ experiences and characteristics.

Thus for example, women and respondents with no personal substance use experiences, tend to play up the severity and addictiveness of most substances, and to play down the options for untreated recovery from an addiction, whereas current risk users tend to take an opposite view.

Main interpretations are that there is a general tendency to exaggerate the hazards of and risks with habits that are perceived as unfamiliar and alien, that current risk users at the same time dwell on a ‘false hope’ of being able to quit, and that women are, for various reasons, more inclined than men to worry about their own substance use habits, as well as those in their close environment.

Potential implications, for further research as well as for policy and prevention, are discussed.

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