Given the changing landscape of medicinal drug use, it has become less clear what type of drug use is deemed “acceptable” by societal standards. For example, it is harder to simply use the legality of drugs to determine acceptability. Pulling on symbolic interactionist theory, this study aims to fill in some of the gaps in research on attitudes and stigma toward medical marijuana and prescription opioid use. 317 survey responses were collected from American adults aged 18 and over through the Amazon Mturk service. Participants were asked a number of questions aimed at measuring their attitudes towards medical marijuana and prescription opioid use. For example, respondents were asked their level of agreement with stereotypical images of drug users and they were also asked about their willingness to incorporate a user into their family. Analysis showed that there were higher levels of stigma against prescription opioid use than medical marijuana and that three factors had a significant impact on the level of stigma against each drug’s use. These three factors were social proximity to drug use, source of information on each drug, and, for medical marijuana, the age the respondent. It was found that stigma was decreased for medical marijuana when information was gained from social media and decreased for prescription opioids when gained from media sources. These findings can lay the groundwork for future research into the perceptions of medicinal drug use and inform policy on legalization and regulation efforts.


Nurse, Anne


Sociology and Anthropology


Medical Humanities | Public Health | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Substance Abuse and Addiction


stigma, public perceptions, medical marijuana, prescription opioids, drug use, medicinal

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2018 Bonita Salmeron