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Fact File: Half of America agrees addiction is a disease

April 13, 2018

American attitudes toward addiction are beginning to shift, but only slightly, according to a survey of 1,054 adults by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Researchers gathered responses in March 2018.

In 2016, 33% of those surveyed said the use of prescription pain drugs is a serious problem in their community, and that number rose to 43% for this year’s survey. Additionally, two-thirds say their community is not doing enough to make treatment accessible and affordable.

The good news is that more than half—53% of those surveyed—say prescription drug addiction is a disease. However, the bad news is that 44% say such addiction indicates a lack of willpower or discipline. Nearly one-third of those surveyed say addiction is caused by character defect or is the result of bad parenting, and 39% believe it is caused by mental health or brain disorders.

While the federal government is investing $4.6 billion to address the crisis this year, 57% of those surveyed disapprove of how President Donald Trump is handling the problem. By party affiliation, 70% of Republicans approve, while 40% of independents and 16% of Democrats approve.

Stigma continues among Americans. More than 70% of respondents would not want a person in active opioid addiction to join their families through marriage, and 58% wouldn’t want to work closely with that person. Only 18% would be “very willing” to have a person in active addiction as a friend. It’s interesting to note that 58% also say their community needs to do more to reduce stigma and discrimination.

More individuals view use of prescription pain drugs as “extremely” or “very” serious problems compared to other types of substances. Marijuana is considered serious by just 25% of respondents, while painkillers are considered serious by 43%. Stimulants, such as cocaine, are considered serious by 42% of those surveyed.

Source: The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Issue Brief, April 2018

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