One in Four Americans Connected To Painkiller Addiction

By Paul Gaita 12/08/15

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed just how deeply entrenched the opioid addiction epidemic has become.

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A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation underscored the extent to which the opioid addiction epidemic has permeated the fabric of American society.

According to their findings, 27% of U.S. citizens—approximately 66 million adults—report that they or someone they know are addicted to prescription painkillers. The Kaiser Foundation interviewed 1,352 respondents from a national sample by phone, and 56% of those participants declared themselves as having some personal connection to painkiller abuse, either through their own use of prescription medications or by knowing someone who has abused, been addicted to, or died from abusing such drugs. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3%.

Demographics of the respondents reflect that whites are more likely than African-Americans and Hispanics to have a personal connection to prescription painkiller abuse (63% vs. 44% and 37%, respectively). Prescription painkiller abuse appeared to affect more adults between the ages of 18 to 29 (62% of respondents) or 30 to 49 (61%); 59% of respondents were male and/or college graduates and lived in suburban areas, while women and urban residents polled significantly lower, at 54% and 51%, respectively. From an income perspective, 63% of adults who reported an annual income of $90,000 or more stated their personal connection to painkiller abuse, while those with incomes less than $40,000 polled at 56%.

When asked for the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, half of the respondents cited car accidents. Only four in 10 respondents knew that prescription drug overdoses have been the leading cause of injury death since 2013. However, 77% of respondents believed that it was easier for individuals to obtain prescription painkillers not prescribed to them than it was for those who needed medical access to them (58%).

Additionally, half of all respondents believed that reducing the number of people suffering from painkiller abuse should be a top priority for state lawmakers, though this placed second behind improving public education (76%), making public health care more affordable (68%) and reducing crime (64%). Only 33% of poll respondents believed that access to the overdose prevention medication Narcan should be allowed without a prescription, but 63% supported “Good Samaritan” laws, which prevented individuals who call for emergency medical help for a drug overdose from being arrested.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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