Americans Not As Aware Of Opioid Crisis In Their Own Backyards, Study Finds

By Beth Leipholtz 07/30/18

Americans are three times more likely to be informed about the opioid epidemic as a national problem rather than one in their own area.

people walking down a sidewalk

Despite the opioid epidemic dominating headlines, a new study has found that most Americans are not aware of the extent of the epidemic in their own areas of residence.

The study, conducted by Laguna Treatment Hospital in Aliso Viejo, California, found that Americans are three times more likely to be informed about the opioid epidemic as a national problem rather than one in their own areas, The Guardian states

The study found that a mere 13% of participants in the southern part of the country and 10% of those in the northeastern region felt that “drugs posed a crisis in their own communities.” But based on past data, states like West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Vermont have been among the states most affected by the crisis.

Dr. Lawrence Tucker, medical director of Laguna, tells the Guardian that the results of the study were surprising due to the prevalence of the epidemic “despite regional differences.”

“You can see those differences in not just the prescriptions of opioids but the amount of heroin that is available—China White, for example, is prevalent along the east coast as is fentanyl,” he stated. "There is oxycodone in the midwest and Black Tar heroin on the west coast.”

Tucker played a large role in the recent study, called "Perceptions of Addiction." The study surveyed 999 participants, 45% of which were male and 55% of which were female, from all parts of the country. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 76, and about 33% stated that they had dealt with substance use disorder at some point. 

In 2014, a Pew Research study found that very few Americans had knowledge of the growing opioid epidemic. Tucker and others involved in the study wanted to find out if four years later, in light of the growing spotlight on the epidemic, the perceptions had changed. 

“The survey’s verbiage attempted to achieve admittance of, versus just awareness of, addiction across the United States,” Taylor Bloom, the survey’s project manager, told the Guardian. “We would ask questions using the word ‘perceive’ instead of ‘aware.’ For example: ‘Do you perceive an addiction crisis in your community?’”

According to the Guardian, Bloom and other researchers did discover some improvements when compared to the 2014 study.

“We saw increased awareness among Hispanic and African American demographics,” said Bloom. “But then we saw that Americans are 79% less likely to perceive an addiction crisis in their communities today as they were four years ago... which is kind of crazy.”

According to Tucker, race plays a large part in awareness.

“Some races, particularly white young adults, are being hit harder than others,” he told the Guardian. “Which is why the neighborhoods that are affected the most are certainly aware of the epidemic, because they have lost loved ones and friends. But the communities that aren’t really aware of the opioid epidemic is because it’s just not affecting them as much due to the racial makeup of their neighborhoods.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.