Americans view opioids as biggest local drug problem – poll

© Lucas Jackson
A new poll shows 44 percent of US citizens believe that opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers are very serious problems in their communities. The United Nations’ World Drug Report found that the US is facing an all-out opioid epidemic.

Opioids kill nearly 100 Americans every day, so it comes as little surprise that a Gallup poll found that over four out of 10 Americans believe it is a very serious problem or worse.

Forty-four percent believe that prescription painkillers are either a “crisis” or a “very serious problem,” with 42 percent believing the same about heroin.

The survey found that women are slightly more likely to believe that prescription painkillers are a crisis or very serious problem, with 48 percent believing so, compared to 38 percent of men.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the American Society of Addiction Medicine found that women are more likely to be prescribed painkillers than men. In addition, they also receive higher doses and are on them for longer periods of time, meaning women get addicted faster.

Women are also more likely to die from prescription painkillers. Between 1999 and 2010, the prescription painkiller overdose rate increased by 400 for women percent, compared to 237 percent for men. Over that same time period, fatal drug overdoses were found to kill more people than car accidents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additionally, the Gallup poll shows that Americans living in the eastern part of the country were more likely to believe that prescription painkillers and heroin are serious problems, while respondents in the South were the least likely to believe so.

This is particularly interesting, because in 2014 the CDC found that, compared to eastern states such as West Virginia, where 137.6 painkiller prescriptions were written for every 100 adults, the South saw the highest concentration of painkiller prescriptions per person. In Alabama there were 142.9 prescriptions for 100 people, followed by Tennessee with 142.8.

At least 55 percent of the people who had heard at least a little bit about the problem blamed the pharmaceutical industry for encouraging doctors to prescribe opioids. In an interesting turn, the survey found that Republicans, at 47 percent, were less likely than Democrats, at 57 percent, to believe that the pharmaceutical industry was responsible.

In fact, Republicans were more likely to believe that patients who demand painkiller prescriptions were to blame, with 52 percent of Republicans blaming the consumers, compared to 40 percent of Democrats.

The survey of 1,025 adults found that only 23 percent of Americans believe that marijuana is a crisis or a very serious problem, about half the percentage of those that view widespread opioid use as such.