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Poll: Half of America affected by opioid crisis

November 24, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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The growing opioid crisis is now hitting home for 56 percent of Americans, according to a tracking poll of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, 85 percent say providing treatment for those with addiction would be very or somewhat effective in managing the crisis.

More than half of the 1,352 adults surveyed say they have been addicted themselves, know someone who died from overdose, know someone with addiction or someone who took painkillers not prescribed to them. Of note: 63 percent of whites say they have such a personal connection, compared with 44 percent of blacks and 37 percent of Hispanics.

Of all the options offered in the poll, providing treatment for those addicted was the top choice among respondents to combat the issue (85 percent). Monitoring physicians’ prescribing habits was cited by 82 percent, and physician training was cited by 80 percent as a solution.

Policy implications

Opioid addiction is a policy issue as much as it is a public health issue.

Half say opioid strategies should be a top priority for state lawmakers. However, improving public education (76 percent) and making healthcare more accessible and affordable (68 percent) are higher priorities for those surveyed. For those who say they know someone who has died of a drug overdose, the number jumps, with 65 percent saying opioid strategies should be a top priority.

Some states have passed laws to make naloxone available without a prescription. Most of the public (62 percent) say access to the drug should only be allowed with a prescription, while only 33 percent say it should be available without a prescription. Those who know someone who has abused prescription painkillers or died from an overdose are more likely to say people should be able to get naloxone without a prescription (41 percent vs. 23 percent)

More details from the poll:

  • 16 percent say they know someone who has died from opioids, and 9 percent say that person was a close friend or family member.
  • 27 percent say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, but only 40 percent of Americans are aware of this fact.
  • 77 percent say it’s easy for people to get access to painkillers not prescribed to them, compared to the 58 percent who say it’s easy for people who medically need them to get them.
  • 5 percent say that it’s more risky to use prescription painkillers than heroin.