Stigma and Substance Use Disorders


Stigma associated with substance use disorders is strong in the US, yet research aiming to understand and address this form of stigma is limited. Our lab is working on several projects related to stigma and substance use.

Current Projects

Disclosure of one’s substance use disorder recovery status to others can expose people to stigma, which may undermine their recovery efforts, and/or social support, which may facilitate their recovery efforts. We are studying disclosure processes among people receiving treatment for substance use disorders using social network research methods to understand which aspects of disclosures relate to stigma vs. social support, develop an intervention to help people disclose their substance use disorder recovery status in ways that minimize risk of stigma and maximize access to social support from others, and pilot test this intervention to determine its acceptability and feasibility. Findings will ultimately lead to a brief evidence-based disclosure intervention to help individuals make disclosure decisions that support their recovery efforts. This project is funded by an award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K01DA042881). This award is also supporting Dr. Earnshaw to pursue training in substance use disorders, social network research, and intervention science.

Past Projects

We are exploring experiences of stigma among young people receiving treatment for substance use disorders and their caregivers. Stigma experienced by both young people themselves and their caregivers may undermine recovery. This project involves qualitative interviews with young people and caregivers, and was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (K12HS022986).

We are collaborating with Jennifer Carrano, PhD at UD and atTAack addiction to evaluate barriers to and facilitators of recovery, including stigma, among people with substance use disorders who are living in recovery houses in Delaware.

With Laramie Smith, PhD at UCSD, we are conducting a systematic review of studies on stigma and substance use. This project aims to summarize the current state of the science on this topic, and make recommendations to guide future research.