Most Americans (72%) are followed news about the opioid epidemic at least somewhat closely and half said the addiction problem in their community got worse in 2018. Perceptions about the extent of the problem remained relatively stable since 2017 (about half say it’s an “extremely” or “very big” problem in their community).
- Blame Game. In May of 2017, “individual users” and “doctors” held the top two slots for those most responsible for the nation’s opioid crisis. A year later, the largest share still blames the users themselves (29%) for the epidemic, but Big Pharma now nearly matches blame for individual users, up 10 percentage points to 25 percent overall.
- Regionally speaking, while greater shares of Americans as a whole blame drug companies, Big Pharma was the MOST to blame in the Northeast and West regions. Over a quarter (28%) of Northeasterners holding drug companies most responsible, this is up 13 percentage points from 2017. Similarly, for Westerners, 29 percent blame the pharmaceutical companies versus 18 percent in 2017, up 11 percentage points. Midwesterners, too, are now more likely to blame pharmaceutical companies (up 11 percentage points since May 2017), but greater shares still blame the users for the opioid epidemic.
- Treating the Epidemic. Nearly half (46%) think the government spent too little on addressing the epidemic in 2018. This jumps to 61 percent among Democrat or Democrat-leaning Americans, 25 percentage points greater than Republican or Republican-leaners (36%).
- Addressing the Problem from Different Angles.
- Public education (53%), monitoring doctors’ prescribing habits (47%), increasing access to addiction treatment programs (45%), increasing pain management training for doctors (43%), and increasing research about pain and pain management (38%) are the top cited ways to address the opioid epidemic.
- While partisanship doesn’t impact opinions about the gravity of the problem, it does impact the ways in which they think it should be addressed. Much greater shares of Democrats/Democratic leaners select all of the listed options for addressing the epidemic than Republican/Republican leaners. The most pronounced differences by party are: increase access to addiction treatment programs (55% D, 38% R), increase research about pain and pain management (45% D, 33% R), reducing social stigma around addiction (34% D, 16% R).
- Monetarily speaking, though, Republicans and Democrats both favor spending money on treatment and prevention over funding enforcing tougher regulations, but Democrat/Democratic-leaners are more likely to say they favor treatment over enforcement (68 versus 52%).
How closely have you been following news about widespread abuse of prescription painkillers known as opioids?
Not too closely
Not at all closely
As far as you know, how big of a problem is opioid abuse in your community?
Extremely big problem
Very big problem
Somewhat of a problem
Not too much of a problem
Not a problem at all
In the past year, do you think the problem of opioid or prescription pain medications addiction in your community has …?
Remained about the same
Compared with other states, do you think the problem of opioid or prescription pain medication addiction in your state is a ..?
Same as in other states
As you may know, the United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Opioids include prescription painkillers such as Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin. Do you happen to know someone who has suffered or is currently suffering from an opioid or painkiller addiction?
Do you happen to know someone who overdosed on prescription opioids or painkillers?
Who do you think is MOST responsible for the nation's opioid crisis?
Other (please specify)
Drug distributors (middlemen between drug companies and pharmacies)
DEA and other federal government agencies
Thinking about government spending on the opioid epidemic, is the government today spending …?
About the right amount
Regardless of how much the federal government spends, do you think the dollars being spent should mostly go to treatment and prevention or enforcing tougher regulations?
Mostly spent on the treatment and prevention
Mostly spent on enforcing tougher regulations
Which of the following actions do you think would be effective in addressing the opioid epidemic? (Select all that apply)
Monitoring doctors’ prescribing habits
Increasing access to addiction treatment programs
Increasing pain management training for doctors
Increasing research about pain and pain management
Reducing social stigma around addiction
Putting addiction warnings labels on Rx bottles
Encouraging disposal of extra painkillers
Government limits on drug production
Other (please specify)