Survey: Americans More Aware of the Opioid Crisis, Addicts Still Face Stigma

Many Americans recognize the significance of opioid addiction within the United States, but stigma surrounding addiction still exists, according to a survey conducted by the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

In 2016, 33% of Americans who were surveyed considered opioid addiction to be a serious issue. This number has grown rapidly in just 2 years, with 43% of Americans concerned about opioid addiction, according to the survey’s results.

"In the national effort to grapple with the enormous issue of opioid addiction, it is important to know the level of awareness and understanding of Americans who find themselves in the midst of an epidemic that is claiming growing numbers of lives,” Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of public health at NORC, said in a press release.

According to the survey, a majority of Americans admitted to having an experience with prescription drug abuse, with 57% misusing or abusing them, which could mean taking a painkiller without a prescription or overdosing. Thirteen percent of Americans have lost a close friend or relative to an overdose.

The findings reveal that while a large portion of the country agrees that opioids are a major concern, there are conflicting attitudes toward addiction and those affected by it, according to the press release.

Although 53% of survey respondents stated that they consider addiction to be a disease, 44% reported seeing it as a personal failure involving lack of discipline and willpower. Thirty-two percent believe addiction is a character defect or the result of bad parenting, according to the survey.

Less than 1 in 5 Americans would choose to surround themselves with someone who struggled with opioid addiction, pointing to a stigma surrounding opioid addiction, according to the survey.

A majority of respondents would like to see more community resources for addicts, including accessible treatment programs, improved methods of treating addiction, and stronger penalties for drug dealers.

The survey leaders highlight the importance of factual information about opioid addiction and the avoidance of misinformation.

"The number of people who recognize how serious the opioid epidemic is in this nation is growing," Trevor Tompson, vice president for public affairs research at NORC, said in the press release. "There is clearly a continuing challenge to ensure that what is learned about the crisis is grounded in fact."


More Americans Aware of Growing Problem of Opioid Addiction [news release]. Chicago. AP-NORC’s website. Accessed April 9, 2018.

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