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Majority of Ohio adults believe addiction is a disease

Oct 18, 2018

Communities across Ohio are working together to address the opioid epidemic. But efforts can be hindered by the stigma that surrounds substance abuse and the perception that drug use is a choice.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that, “Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.”

To better understand public perception about addiction, the 2018 Ohio Health Issues Poll asked respondents if they believe addiction is a disease. It found that 6 in 10 Ohio adults (62%) consider addiction a disease, while 3 in 10 Ohio adults (31%) do not believe it is a disease and 7% are unsure.

“Recognizing that addiction is a disease is a key strategy for partners working to build solutions around the opioid epidemic that continues to impact Ohioans,” said O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of Interact for Health. “Reducing stigma around addiction starts with acknowledging that it’s a chronic, reoccurring disease that’s influenced by biology, environment and brain development.”

Attitudes vary by political affiliation, type of community

When looking more closely at attitudes of Ohio adults regarding addiction, OHIP found that individuals who identified as Democrats (74%) were more likely to believe addiction is a disease than Republicans (53%) and Independents (57%).

OHIP data also show that respondents living in an urban community were more likely to believe addiction is a disease (67%) than those living in rural or suburban communities (58%)

Ohio adults believe addiction is physical, psychological disease

Of the OHIP respondents who said they believed addiction is a disease, researchers then asked if they felt it was physical, psychological or both. Nearly 8 in 10 Ohio adults (76%) who believe addiction is a disease believe that it is both physical and psychological.

About the Ohio Health Issues Poll

The 2018 Ohio Health Issues Poll is sponsored by Interact for Health. OHIP was conducted May 22-June 19, 2018, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 816 adults from throughout Ohio was interviewed by telephone. This included 363 landline telephone interviews and 452 cell phone interviews. In 95 out of 100 cases, statewide estimates will be accurate to ± 3.4%. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For more information about the Ohio Health Issues Poll, please visit

About Interact for Health

Interact for Health is improving the health of all people in our region. We serve as a catalyst by promoting health equity through grants, education, research, policy and engagement. To amplify the impact of our work, Interact for Health focuses on three strategic priorities: reducing tobacco use, addressing the opioid epidemic and ensuring that children have access to health care through school-based health centers. We are an independent foundation that serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

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