Examining drug use stigma: Considerations from race and drug type

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Despite data showing 80% of crack defendants to be Black while 66% of those who use crack are White or Hispanic, a gap exists in academic understanding of drug use stigma related to racialized drug types. For this reason, this study examines the public stigma of drug use in a diverse sample to find main and interaction effects for people who use drugs’ (PWUD) race, PWUD’s drug type preference, and the race of the stigma endorser. 308 predominantly women participants (95.5%) were randomly assigned to one of six target PWUD conditions: PWUD race/ethnicity (White or Black) and drug type preference (marijuana, powder cocaine, or crack cocaine). Respondents completed the demographic questionnaire, Exposure to Drug Users Index, and three separate drug use stigma measures: Social Distance Scale for Substance Users (SDS-SU), Affect Scale for Substance Users (AS-SU), and Attribution Questionnaire (AQ-9). Three (2x3x7) ANCOVAs were conducted for each of the drug use stigma measures including the PWUD vignette’s race, their drug type preference, and the respondent’s race as independent variables, while controlling for exposure to PWUD. There was a significant main effect for drug type and interaction effect between PWUD and respondent’s race on the SDS-SU. The AS-SU also showed a significant interaction effect between PWUD and respondent’s races in addition to a significant main effect for race of the respondent. The AQ-9 showed a significant interaction effect between PWUD’s race and drug type preference. The results suggest shifting views of powder and crack cocaine, underlying racial tensions due to drug use, and negative appraisals stemming from racially stereotypical drug use. These results can help build the understanding of covert racism tied to drug use and potential interactions with other PWUD and stigma endorser attributes that may reveal the explicit impact of race on public drug use stigma.

Drug use stigma, Substance abuse stigma, Race/ethnicity, Crack cocaine, Powder cocaine, Race and drug type, Intersectionality