A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Surveys examine family/friend drug use, addiction as a disease, access to substance use treatment


Communities throughout Kentucky and Ohio have mobilized to address substance use, enacting a variety of strategies to reduce opioid overdoses and connect people to treatment.

To better measure the impact of this work and to understand attitudes around addiction and treatment, the 2019 Ohio Health Issues Poll and 2019 Kentucky Health Issues Poll asked several questions about substance use.

KHIP and OHIP are telephone surveys that aim to measure Kentucky and Ohio adults’ opinions about health-related issues. The surveys are conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. Both are done on behalf of Interact for Health, with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky also partnering on KHIP.

Family/friend drug use

By asking respondents whether they have a friend or family member who has had a problem with a particular substance, the surveys attempt to measure the impact on the community and changes in usage. In 2019, the polls found that:

• 38 percent of Kentucky adults and 33 percent of Ohio adults have a friend or family member who had problems from using prescription drugs.

• 20 percent of Kentucky adults and 24 percent of Ohio adults have a friend or family member who had problems from using heroin.

• 22 percent of Kentucky adults and 16 percent of Ohio adults have a friend or family member who had problems from using methamphetamine.

“It’s important that communities understand how substance use is changing, so responses can adapt to shifting patterns,” said O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of Interact for Health. “The data show that while there was an uptick in the percentage of Kentucky adults with knowledge of abuse of prescription pain relievers in 2019, knowledge of use of other substances has not changed in recent years.”

Addiction as a disease

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll also looked at perceptions of addiction among adults in the commonwealth, asking respondents whether they believe addiction is a disease. It found that about 7 in 10 Kentucky adults reported they believe addiction is a disease. This is unchanged since 2017, the last time this question was asked.

“These questions allow us to measure the stigma around substance use,” Owens said. “Interact for Health supports efforts to reduce stigma, including a regional messaging campaign. In Northern Kentucky, we’ve partnered with Transitions, a regional substance use treatment provider, to implement the #IBelieveinRecovery campaign to communicate about addiction and combat stigma.”

Substance use treatment

Both surveys looked at issues related to substance use treatment.

In Ohio, the poll asked whether in the last year, respondents had a friend or family member who experienced problems as a result of using drugs in general, with 24 percent indicating they did. Of those, the survey examined whether the individual with the problem had been able to access treatment. It found that 56 percent had entered treatment (24 percent did so on his/her own and 32 percent entered treatment because others intervened) and 42 percent did not enter treatment.

The Ohio Health Issues Poll also looked at mandatory drug treatment, and discovered that about 8 in 10 Ohio adults (79 percent) favor replacing prison sentences with mandatory drug treatment and probation for people convicted of nonviolent illegal drug use.

In Kentucky, the poll examined access to substance abuse treatment by asking respondents if they would know how to help a friend or family member who needed services or treatment as a result of using drugs. Just more than half of Kentucky adults (56 percent) said they would know whom to contact.

For more information about KHIP, visit www.interactforhealth.org/about-khip/. For more information about OHIP, please visit www.interactforhealth.org/about-ohip/.

From Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky


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