Marginalized choice: Self-ascribed illness and its impact on marginalized Black men in treatment

Document Type


Publication Date



Social Work

Publication Title

Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men


Core identities, including race and gender, influence the lived experience of Black men in clinical residential drug treatment programs. Such men with behavioral and mental disorders often create and negotiate identities of mental illness and pathology. Little is known about the treatment of participants' mental representation of illness and the construction of an “illness identity” label. While expedient in treatment, the label can be ultimately marginalizing. We examine 1) how 470 Black men in residential drug treatment self-label as “addicts,” 2) what predicts self-labeling, and 3) impacts of self-labeling on treatment compliance, risky behaviors, and perceived well-being. Results reveal a curvilinear relationship between self-labeling and the frequency and quantity of drug use, predicated mainly on relationship status and perceived satisfaction with finances, sexuality, and personal control. We found self-labeling has no relationship to selected risky behaviors, positively relates to help receptivity, and negatively associates with active recovery and overall satisfaction.

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