Population, professional and client views on the dangerousness of addictions: testing the familiarity hypothesis

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Population, professional and client views on the dangerousness of addictions: testing the familiarity hypothesis

AIMS - This study compares how different stakeholder groups in Finland perceive the dangerousness of diverse addictions to the individual and society. It also tests the hypothesis that familiar addictions are regarded as less dangerous than unfamiliar ones. DATA - The data consisted of surveys with 1) a random general population sample (n=740); 2) addiction treatment professionals (n=520); and 3) inpatient clients (n=78). The dangerousness of alcohol, hard drugs, cannabis, prescription drugs, tobacco, gambling and Internet use were assessed by their perceived addiction potential, chances of recovery and relative gravity as societal problems. RESULTS - The observed group differences, even if significant, were mostly of degree rather than of kind. The largest disagreements involved cannabis and prescription drugs. Lay respondents worried more about cannabis while professionals were rather more concerned about prescribed drugs. Clients saw less difference in the addiction potential of legal and illegal substances than did lay respondents. Professionals trusted most in treatment but they saw less need to treat cannabis dependence than the others. All groups ranked alcohol as the greatest addiction-related societal problem in Finland. The familiarity hypothesis was not consistently supported by the data. Clients familiar with many addictive substances and behaviours did not downplay their harmfulness.

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