Addiction Ontology: Applying basic formal ontology in the addiction domain

Janna Hastings (Lead Author), Sharon Cox, Robert West, Caitlin Notley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Downloads (Pure)


Ontologies are being used in many areas of science to improve clarity and communication of research methods, findings and theories. Many of these ontologies use an upper level ontology called Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) as their frame of reference. This article summarises Basic Formal Ontology and shows how it can provide a basis for development of an Addiction Ontology that encompasses all the things that addiction researchers, practitioners and policy makers want to refer to. BFO makes a fundamental distinction between what it calls continuants (e.g. objects and their characteristics) and occurrents (e.g. processes). Classifying addiction-related entities using this system enables important distinctions to be made that are frequently overlooked or confused in the literature due to inherent ambiguities in natural language expressions. The Addiction Ontology uses this framework to convey information about: people and populations and their characteristics (e.g. substance use disorder), products (e.g. heroin, tobacco-containing products), behaviours (e.g. cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption), interventions (e.g. detoxification, rehabilitation, legislation), research (e.g. measurement, theories, study designs), organisations (e.g. pharmaceutical industry, tobacco companies), and settings (e.g. hospital outpatient clinic, country).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020

Cite this