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Gallup Survey: Opioids Seen as Most Serious Local Drug Problem

Americans worry about painkiller/heroin “crisis”

More than four in 10 Americans view prescription painkillers and heroin as a “crisis” or a “very serious problem” in their local areas, according to a new Gallup survey. Smaller percentages of Americans––one in three or fewer––view cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana as a crisis or a very serious problem where they live.

The data were based on a poll conducted June 14–23, before national and state leaders took steps in July to address the growing issue of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.

Across key U.S. subgroups, there were notable differences in perceptions of opioids as a crisis or a very serious problem:

  • Women were slightly more likely than men to say prescription painkillers are a crisis or a very serious problem in their area (48% vs. 38%, respectively). The two groups were about equally likely to say heroin is a crisis or a very serious problem.
  • Those living in the East (59%) were much more likely than those in other regions to say heroin is a very serious problem or a crisis, with those in the South having the least concern (33%). The regional differences were much smaller on views of prescription painkillers.
  • Whites were more likely than nonwhites to see heroin as a problem in their areas, (46% vs. 34%, respectively), but these groups’ views of prescription painkillers were similar.
  • Lower-income Americans were much less likely than those living in middle- and upper-income households to see prescription painkillers as a crisis or a very serious problem where they live.
  • Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to see prescription painkillers and heroin as a crisis or a very serious problem.

Presidential candidates from both parties have focused on opioid addiction on the campaign trail, particularly ahead of the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, a state ravaged by opioid overdose deaths, Gallup noted. Eight in 10 Americans said they have heard or read about problems with prescription opioids, including 46% who had heard or read a lot, 19% some, and 15% only a little.

Among those who had heard or read about the prescription opioid problem, Republicans were less likely than Democrats to blame pharmaceutical companies and the lack of public knowledge about opioids for addiction problems. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to blame patients demanding that they be given prescription painkillers. Both were just as likely to blame doctors for overprescribing painkillers.

In March, Gallup found that 44% of Americans worry about drug abuse “a great deal”––up 10% from two years ago.

Source: Gallup; July 29, 2016.

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