Increasing Support for Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug Use: Is the Brain Disease Model of Addiction Effective?



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The National Institute of Drug Addiction (NIDA) has promoted the Brain Disease Model of Addiction (BDMA) for several decades under the premise that its acceptance will have a positive impact on a variety of drug-related social policies. Considerable research has suggested that neither understanding nor accepting the BDMA positively influences social behavior and decision making as it relates to decreasing stigma or increasing support for treatment and funding for substance use disorders. An alternative model (deemed here the Malleability Model; MM) focuses on the changeability of the underlying psychopathology associated with psychiatric disorders. This model has shown to decrease hopelessness and increase prognostic optimism. The current study sought to identify whether MM values are more predictive of willingness to vote for harm reduction policies than BDMA values (H1), and if agreement with MM values are more predictive of willingness to fund such policies than agreement with BDMA values (H2). Results indicated that the MM failed to predict placement of votes and donated funds, while agreement with morally based perspectives and conservative political affiliation were predictive of a reduction in harm reduction donations. Agreement with the BDMA predicted increased donations to harm reduction policies but not votes to harm reduction policies. Results of this study indicate that although the MM did not increase votes and donations to harm reduction policies, unexpectedly, the BDMA may appeal to individuals willing to donate funds on a personal rather than governmental level.



Brain disease model, Harm reduction, Malleability, Drug use