Drug overdoses are eclipsing car crashes as a leading cause of accidental death for American adults. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation adds a troubling new number to the accounting: 27% of Americans report they either have been addicted to prescription painkillers or have a family member or close friend who has. That’s roughly 66 million US adults for whom the opioid crisis has become intensely personal.
The Kaiser Foundation interviewed 1,352 respondents. More than half reported some connection to the epidemic-knowing anyone who ever misused painkillers, was addicted, or died from an overdose. The demographics of those touched by the crisis skew white, higher-income, college-educated, younger, and male. Whites, people with high incomes, and people who attended college are more likely to know people who have abused opioids. Over 16% say they know someone who died, more than half of them a family member or close friend.
Prescription drug addiction and a related heroin epidemic have proven a stubborn public health crisis since painkiller abuse began rising more than a decade ago. Kaiser’s poll found strong majorities in support of policy solutions, including drug treatment and tighter scrutiny of prescribers.