More Americans Now Aware Of The Seriousness Of Opioid Misuse In The Country, Study Reveals

A man using heroin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

More Americans now see opioid misuse as a major issue for their community, according to the latest survey carried out by the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. According to the survey, 43 percent of Americans now see abuse of prescription pain drugs as a serious issue in their community, up from 33 percent in 2016.

The nationwide survey of 1,054 adults was conducted last month to find out what Americans think of the opioid misuse in their communities. Participants were contacted through the internet, cell phones, and landlines and were asked several questions about their experiences with opioid addiction, the impact of drug misuse on their local communities, and what they believe needs to be done to address the issue.

A large number of survey participants reported having an experience with substance abuse of different types, according to Eurekalert. Thirteen percent revealed that one of their close friends or a relative died in the past from an opioid overdose. About 53 percent said they see prescription drug misuse as a disease, while many view such addictions as a behavioral failing.

“This survey provides important, and in some cases troubling, information,” said Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of public health at NORC.

According to the CDC, the opioid epidemic is spreading fast across the U.S., producing some severe consequences, such as more deaths from opioid overdoses as well as a rise in the incidence of newborns experiencing withdrawal syndrome because of opioid misuse during pregnancy. More than three out of five drug overdose deaths in the U.S. today involve an opioid. In 2016, a total of 42,249 Americans died from opioid overdoses, five times higher than the number of such deaths in 1999.

Nearly 40 percent of deaths due to opioid overdose in 2016 involved a prescription opioid. The latest data from the CDC also shows that deaths due to drug overdose are up among adults of almost all ages, all races, and both men and women. On average, 115 people die every day from an opioid overdose in the U.S.

In the survey, 44 percent of the respondents said they believe opioid addiction implies a lack of discipline or willpower. About 32 percent blamed bad parenting or character defect for the problem. More than 80 percent of the participants expressed their unwillingness to connect with a neighbor, colleague, or friend addicted to prescription drugs. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said their communities need to do more to make treatment programs affordable and accessible to people addicted to opioids.

In this study, Facebook appeared as the leading source of information about the opioid crisis. Forty-one percent of the participants using Facebook said they had seen posts about opioids or deaths due to drug overdoses on the social network.

“The number of people who recognize how serious the opioid epidemic is in this nation is growing,” said Trevor Tompson, vice president for public affairs research at NORC.

“There is clearly a continuing challenge to ensure that what is learned about the crisis is grounded in fact.”