Public Attitudes Towards Heroin Addictions: Spatial Consequences for Treatment Options and Access
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Over the past 20 years, heroin has become one of the most deadly street drugs available in the United States. This national narrative is reflected in Madison, where, increasingly, city agencies are allocating resources towards combating this epidemic. The purpose of our research was to determine what the attitudes of Madison residents are in regards to heroin addiction, and how these attitudes impact treatment options and access. We surveyed members of the Madison community using social media networks and Madison Neighborhood Association e-mails, receiving over 500 responses from the majority of Madison’s ZIP codes. Additionally, to gain an understanding of the existing treatment landscape in Madison, we interviewed four experts in the field. From survey data, we found respondents support funding expansion for both behavioral and medical treatment, with the majority of respondents viewing heroin addiction from a public health perspective rather than a punitive one. These attitudes support what each interviewee asserted is the best approach to treatment: long term combined medical and behavioral treatment. Furthermore, some stigma exists among respondents in terms of their perceptions of individuals with heroin addictions being dangerous and, to a lesser extent, personally culpable for their addiction. Both statistical and spatial analysis of the survey data reveals the presence of the socio-spatial stigmatization phenomenon, an extension of the NIMBY concept. Though stigma towards individuals with heroin addiction persists, this stigma does not dramatically impact current treatment programs and clinics. Rather, Madison residents are generally receptive and supportive of public health approaches to heroin treatment.