Correlates of Public Support Toward Federal Funding for Harm Reduction Strategies

Published in: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2015

Posted on RAND.org on July 22, 2015

by Magdalena Kulesza, Bethany A. Teachman, Alexandra J. Werntz, Melissa L. Gasser, Kristen P. Lindgren

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BACKGROUND: Historically, US federal policy has not supported harm reduction interventions, such as safe injection facilities (SIFs) and needle and syringe programs (NSPs), which can reduce the burden associated with injection drug use. Given recent increases in abuse of both legal and illegal opioids, there has been a renewed debate about effective ways to address this problem. The current study (1) assessed participants' support for SIFs and NSPs, and (2) evaluated several demographic factors (e.g., age, gender, race, education, political ideology, and religiosity) and individual differences in stigmatizing beliefs about people who inject drugs (PWID) that might relate to support for these interventions. METHODS: U.S. adults (N = 899) completed a web-based study that assessed self-reported support for NSPs and SIFs, and stigma about PWID. RESULTS: The majority of participants were at least somewhat supportive of both NSPs and SIFs. Regression analyses indicated greater support for NSPs and SIFs was predicted by more liberal political ideology, more agreement that PWID deserve help rather than punishment, older age, and male gender. Also, participants who endorsed lower stigma about PWID were more supportive of NSPs and SIFs. Race, religiosity, and education did not predict support for NSPs and SIFs. CONCLUSIONS: Most participants tended to report support for harm reduction strategies. Age, political ideology, and individual differences in stigmatizing beliefs about PWID were significantly associated with support. Given the potential malleability of stigmatizing beliefs, efforts that seek to shift stigma about PWID could have important implications for public policy towards harm reduction strategies for PWID.

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