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Poll Confirms Perceived Stigma Surrounding Drug Addiction

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - A recent poll illustrates the stigma surrounding drug addiction.

More than three-quarters of New Yorkers who responded to a Siena College survey about the opioid crisis say the moral failings of those who are addicted is a contributing factor in the epidemic.

At the same time, people hold the opposing view that addiction is a disease.

"It might be to some extent sort of an individual protection mechanism, not to be too psychological,” said Siena College Research Institute director Don Levy. “We can't understand it. We can't understand how it is that people you know or you know of.... you think why? Why? Their life sort of looks like my life and then suddenly they, their partner, or their child falls prey to this epidemic."

The over-prescribing of opioids by doctors was cited most often in the survey as a factor contributing to the current level of opioid abuse.

Two-thirds of those who took part in the poll say government agencies aren't doing enough to address the crisis.  They want to see more drug abuse prevention programs in schools, more funding for treatment and rehabilitation, and more resources for law enforcement to track down drug dealers

"There is a recognition that we need to devote more dollars to arresting folks, to empowering the courts to work on greater severity of sentencing for traffickers,” Levy said, “and also to deal with that tricky point where police want to both save lives and catch dealers."

This is the second in a series of polls from Siena College this month on the opioid crisis. An earlier surveyfound that 54 percent of New Yorkers are directly affected by the opioid epidemic. One in four know someone who died of an overdose.

The polls are part of community effort by Prescription for Progress: United against opioid addiction, a newly formed coalition of of leaders in healthcare, media, law enforcement, education and business in New York's Capital Region aimed at raising awareness and taking steps to mitigate the crisis.