Americans With Addiction in Their Family Believe It Is a Disease

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Most believe complete recovery possible

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup Poll conducted for USA Today and HBO interviewed U.S. adults who have had an immediate family member addicted to drugs or alcohol, and finds that most believe that addiction is a disease. Respondents believe addiction is both a physical and psychological disease, but they are optimistic that people with drug or alcohol addictions can recover completely. Roughly half of those surveyed say a complete recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is possible only if the addict gets professional help.

The poll was conducted April 27-May 31 among a random sample of 902 U.S. adults who have had an immediate family member addicted to drugs or alcohol. Roughly one in five Americans meets this criterion.

Respondents were asked about their general views on addiction, beyond the specifics of their relative's struggle. Seventy-six percent of those who have had an immediate family member with an addiction believe that addiction is a disease, while 21% disagree. The vast majority of those who say addiction is a disease believe it has both physical and psychological origins. More say it has only psychological origins than only physical origins.

First, we have some general questions about addiction -- not related specifically to your family experience, but just your more general observations. Do you believe that addiction is -- or is not -- a disease?

(Asked of those who think addiction is a disease) Do you believe that addiction is a physical disease, a psychological disease, or both a physical and a psychological disease?


%

Yes, addiction is a disease

76

(Only physical disease)

(1)

(Only psychological disease)

(8)

(Both)

(66)

(Unsure)

(1)

No, addiction is not a disease

21

No opinion

3

The poll delved into the topic of recovery from addiction, asking respondents whether they thought it possible that drug addicts and, separately, alcoholics, can make a complete and permanent recovery. Those who thought recovery was possible were asked a follow-up question as to whether alcoholics or drug addicts could recover on their own or only with professional help. Those who thought complete recovery was not possible were asked whether they thought temporary recoveries were possible.

The full set of results for the questions asking about drug addicts is presented in the table:

Possible for Those With a Drug Addiction to Make a Complete Recovery?

%

Yes, can make complete recovery

75

(Can make complete recovery on their own)

(22)

(Can only recover if they get professional help)

(50)

(Unsure)

(3)

No, cannot make complete recovery/unsure if can

25

(Possible to make temporary recovery)

(22)

(Temporary recovery not possible)

(2)

(Unsure)

(1)

Seventy-five percent of those surveyed say a complete recovery is possible for drug addicts, with 50% believing it possible only with professional help, and 22% saying addicts can recover on their own. Just 2% of respondents reject the idea that a complete or temporary recovery is possible. Most of the 25% who believe a complete recovery is not possible or are unsure if it is possible do say that drug addicts can recovery temporarily.

Eighty-one percent of those who reported that their relative was addicted to drugs believe in the prospects for complete recovery, compared with 71% of those whose relatives had other addictions.

Respondents were slightly more optimistic that alcoholics could make a complete recovery, with 81% saying so. But again, most of those who believe recovery is possible think that a professional must be involved in the process. As in the case of drug addiction, only a small minority of respondents (2%) reject the possibility of a permanent or temporary recovery for alcoholics.

Possible for Those With an Alcohol Addiction to Make a Complete Recovery?

%

Yes, can make complete recovery

81

(Can make complete recovery on their own)

(30)

(Can only recover if they get professional help)

(48)

(Unsure)

(3)

No, cannot make complete recovery/unsure if can

19

(Possible to make temporary recovery)

(17)

(Temporary recovery not possible)

(2)

(Unsure)

(--)

Those who indicated their relative was addicted to alcohol were no more or less likely than those with other types of addictions to believe that alcoholics can make a complete recovery.

Recovery from addiction can mean different things to different people. So the poll asked respondents if they thought recovered alcoholics could still have an occasional drink, or if they needed to stay away from alcohol altogether. The vast majority, 84%, say that alcoholics need to completely abstain in order to recover, while 13% believe an occasional drink would not get in the way of recovery.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 902 adults, aged 18 and older, with an immediate family member who has had a drug or alcohol addiction. Interviews were conducted April 27-May 31, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

First, we have some general questions about addiction -- not related specifically to your family experience, but just your more general observations.

1. Do you believe that addiction is -- or is not -- a disease?

Yes, is

No, is not

No
opinion

76%

21

3

2. (Asked of those who think addiction is a disease) Do you believe that addiction is a physical disease, a psychological disease, or both a physical and a psychological disease?

BASED ON 682 RESPONDENTS WHO BELIEVE ADDICTION IS A DISEASE

Physical disease

Psychological
disease

Both

No opinion

2%

10

87

1

Q.3-5 AND Q.6-9 ROTATED

3. Thinking just about drug addiction, do you think that people who are addicted to drugs can make a permanent and complete recovery from their addiction, or not?

Yes, can make
complete recovery


No, cannot


No opinion

75%

19

6

4. (Asked of those who think complete recovery possible) Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: it is possible for people who are addicted to drugs to make a complete recovery on their own, (or) people who are addicted to drugs can ONLY recover if they get professional help or join a formal recovery program]?

5.(Asked of those who think complete recovery not possible or are unsure) Do you think it is -- or is not -- possible for people who are addicted to drugs to make a temporary recovery in which they are clean for several months or longer, but then go back to using the drug later?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.3-5): BASED ON FULL SAMPLE

%

Yes, can make complete recovery

75

(Can make complete recovery on their own)

(22)

(Can only recover if they get professional help)

(50)

(Unsure)

(3)

No, cannot make complete recovery/unsure if can

25

(Possible to make temporary recovery)

(22)

(Temporary recovery not possible)

(2)

(Unsure)

(1)

6. Thinking just about alcohol addiction, do you think that alcoholics can make a permanent and complete recovery from their addiction, or not?

Yes, can make
complete recovery


No,
cannot


No opinion

81%

17

2

7. (Asked of those who think complete recovery possible) Which comes closer to your view - [ROTATED: it is possible for alcoholics to make a complete recovery on their own, (or) alcoholics can ONLY recover if they get professional help or join a formal recovery program]?

9. (Asked of those who think complete recovery not possible or are unsure) Do you think it is -- or is not -- possible for alcoholics to make a temporary recovery in which they are sober for several months or longer, but then go back to drinking later?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.6-7, 9): BASED ON FULL SAMPLE

%

Yes, can make complete recovery

81

(Can make complete recovery on their own)

(30)

(Can only recover if they get professional help)

(48)

(Unsure)

(3)

No, cannot make complete recovery/unsure if can

19

(Possible to make temporary recovery)

(17)

(Temporary recovery not possible)

(2)

(Unsure)

(--)

8. In order for an alcoholic to recover, do you think he or she needs to totally abstain from drinking alcohol, or can an alcoholic recover and still have an occasional drink?

Need to
totally abstain

Can still have
occasional drink

No opinion

84%

13

3

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