Severity and Predictors of Perceived Discrimination Among Patients with Substance Use Disorders

Megan McCarthy, BS

McLean Hospital – Research Assistant
McCarthy_Megan poster

Scientific Abstract

Background: Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) experience feelings of discrimination due to their SUD. Extant research has not characterized (1) the prevalence of self-reported SUD discrimination or (2) predictors of experienced substance use discrimination. Thus, we sought to characterize the levels of discrimination reported by a sample with SUDs and determine if predictors such as primary SUD (i.e., opioid use disorder vs other SUDs) and gender influence the likelihood someone reports substance use discrimination.

Methods: Participants were 73 patients in McLean Hospital’s Alcohol, Drug, and Addiction Treatment Program that participated in two ongoing studies. Participants completed self-report assessments including the Everyday Discrimination Scale (EDS). The EDS is a 9-item measure that assesses frequency of discrimination in daily life. Participants are asked to select how often they feel discriminated against on a 4-point Likert-type scale of ‘often’ to ‘never.’ Upon completing the 9-items participants are asked, “What do you think is the main reasons for these experiences?” Participants can select as many options as they want, one option being “your substance use.”

Results: The average EDS score was 18.58 (SD=5.03) meaning on average participants ‘rarely’ to ‘sometimes’ experience discrimination. Independent-sample t-tests showed individuals who reported their substance use as a source of discrimination had significantly higher EDS scores on average (p<.001, Cohen’s d=1.40). Fisher’s Exact Test displayed; women were significantly more likely to report their substance use as a source of discrimination (p=0.007, Cramer’s V=0.33) but primary SUD did not predict whether an individual reported feelings of substance use discrimination (p=0.34, Cramer’s V=0.12).

Conclusion: Although most patients experience self-reported discrimination due to their substance use, data suggest there might be individual differences in the likelihood of experiencing this type of discrimination. Future research should determine if discrimination on account of one’s SUD might negatively impact treatment seeking, engagement and outcomes.

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research Areas


Megan D. McCarthy, BS, Juliette Bichon, R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD

Principal Investigator

R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD