Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Most Kentucky adults believe addiction is a disease but a fourth of them think it is not

It is widely understood by health professionals that addiction is a disease, and a recent poll found that most Kentucky adults believe that, too. But one in four think it is not.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, taken Oct. 24 through Dec. 2, found that 70 percent of Kentucky adults believe addiction is a disease, with no discernible difference between those who knew someone with an addiction and those who didn't. The poll also found that 26 percent of Kentucky adults believe that addiction is not a disease, while 4 percent said they didn't know.

"Treating addiction as a disease, and then working together to magnify the treatment programs that are working, is the only way we are going to move from our substance use crisis to long-term recovery - both for individuals, and for the Commonwealth," Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsors the poll, said in a news release.

Responses to the question varied by location, with those living in large urban areas more likely to believe that addiction is a disease than those in largely rural areas.

Kentucky adults in the Lexington region, at 76 percent, are most likely to believe that addiction is a disease. In Eastern Kentucky the figure is 62 percent. Those figures, and those for other regions, are subject to error margins of plus or minus 5.2 to 5.6 percentage points; the margin of error for statewide results is 2.4 percentage points.

Among Kentucky adults who recognized addiction as a disease, 81 percent said they believed it to be both a physical and psychological disease, which is correct; 17 percent said it was psychological, and 1 percent said it was a physical disease only.

Chandler noted that Kentucky is one of the hardest-hit states when it comes to opioid and other substance-use disorders, noting that the state's number of drug overdose deaths jumped 12 percent between 2015 and 2016. The 2015 Behavioral Health Barometer for Kentucky found that, in a single-day count in 2015, 23,565 Kentuckians were enrolled in substance-use treatment, compared to 20,481 in 2011, a 15 percent jump.

To that end, Kentucky lawmakers recently passed a law to require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to conduct a comprehensive review of all state substance-use disorder programs and services, and to only pay for and license those that follow nationally recognized, evidence-based protocols, subject to available funding.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as a "chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences" that can be affected by the biology, environment and development of an individual. This shift in thinking, based on scientific research and evidence, has changed the way substance-use disorders (once simply called substance abuse) are perceived and subsequently treated.

Dr. Mina "Mike" Kalfas, a certified addiction expert in Northern Kentucky, told Terry DeMio of the Cincinnati Enquirer that this shift in thinking has been necessary to provide effective treatment.

"Every facet of our mission -- from using Narcan to medication-assisted treatment to syringe exchange -- relies on general consensus recognizing this as a disease," he told DeMio.

In the same news release, the foundation also announced that this year's annual Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum, to be held Sept. 24 in Lexington, will explore the state's substance use epidemic and examine the latest solutions. Registration for the conference will open soon.

The poll was funded by the foundation and Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-area foundation. It surveyed a random sample of 1,692 Kentucky adults vial landlines and cell phones.

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