Is addiction a moral weakness? Here’s what West Virginia residents think

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Attitudes toward those suffering from substance use disorder are starting to change.

During its annual survey conducted among historic, likely voters in West Virginia, Orion Strategies found that the percentage of respondents who view people who are addicted to opioids or heroin as having a moral weakness has decreased significantly from last year’s numbers.

“By tracking public opinion over the past two years, we’re able to see a significant change in the opinions in the state,” said Graham Godwin, Senior Researcher for Orion Strategies.

“In 2019, 32 percent of the respondents said they see addiction as a moral weakness,” Godwin added. “That’s compared to the 41 percent last year who said they see addiction as a moral weakness when asked the same question during the 2018 survey, which is a 9-point drop.”

Twenty-eight percent of respondents volunteered the response that addiction was both a moral weakness and a medical condition. A total of 5 percent of respondents said they believe that addiction is neither a moral weakness nor a medical condition during this year’s survey. During the 2018 survey, 4 percent said they believed that addiction is neither a moral issue nor a medical condition.

Numerous organizations have focused on the opioid crisis and drug epidemic in West Virginia over the past year to reduce stigma. Organizations that have partnered with West Virginia Public Broadcasting include the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, the West Virginia Independent Oil and Gas Association, the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, the West Virginia Association of Counties, the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association among many others.

The live-interview telephone survey was conducted among historic, likely voters in West Virginia. A total of 310 respondents completed the entire survey – giving the survey a 5.57+/- margin of error with a 95 percent confidence rate. The sample was proportionate to each of the three congressional districts in the state.

Both cell phones and landline telephones were called in all 55 counties. Partisan registration among respondents was 45 percent Democratic, 34 percent Republican and 20 percent Independent. The poll was conducted Jan. 12, 2019.

Stop West Virginia Overdoses is an organization that is working to reduce the number of overdoses in the state through community outreach and education. The organization also works to eliminate the stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder to encourage all those who suffer from the disease to seek treatment.

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