The gene has infiltrated the way citizens perceive themselves and their health. However, there is scant research that explores the ways genetic conceptions infiltrate individuals' understanding of their own health as it relates to a behavioral trait such as addiction. Do people seeking treatment for addiction ground their self-perception in biology in a way that shapes their experiences? We interviewed 63 participants in addiction treatment programs, asking how they make meaning of a genetic understanding of addiction in the context of their recovery, and in dealing with the stigma of addiction. About two-thirds of people in our sample did not find a genetic conception of addiction personally useful to them in treatment, instead believing that the cause was irrelevant to their daily struggle to remain abstinent. One-third of respondents believed that an individualized confirmation of a genetic predisposition to addiction would facilitate their dealing with feelings of shame and accept treatment. The vast majority of our sample believed that a genetic understanding of addiction would reduce the stigma associated with addiction, which demonstrates the perceived power of genetic explanations in U.S. society. Our results indicate that respondents (unevenly) ground their self-perception of themselves as an addicted individual in biology.
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© 2017 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
- behavioral genetics
- substance use