Stigma among health professionals towards patients with substance use disorders and its consequences for healthcare delivery: systematic review
background Healthcare professionals are crucial in the identification and accessibility to treatment for people with substance use disorders.
aim Objective of this literature review is to assess health professionals’ attitudes towards patients with substance use disorders and to examine the consequences of these attitudes on healthcare delivery for these patients.
method PubMed, Psycinfo and Embase were systematically searched for articles published between 2000-2011. Reviews, commentaries and letters were excluded, as were studies originating from non-Western countries. The search process yielded 1562 citations. After selection and quality assessment 28 studies were included.
results Health professionals generally have negative attitudes towards patients with substance use disorders. They perceive violence, manipulation, and poor motivation as impeding factors in the healthcare delivery for these patients. Health professionals also lack adequate education, training and support structures in working with this patient group. Negative attitudes of health professionals diminish patients’ feelings of empowerment and subsequently treatment outcomes. Health professionals have a more task-oriented approach (e.g. less personal engagement and diminished empathy) in the delivery of healthcare for these patients.
conclusion This review indicates that negative attitudes of health professionals towards patients with substance use disorders are common and contribute to suboptimal health care for these patients. However, few studies have evaluated the consequences of health professionals’ negative attitudes towards patients with substance use disorders.