Public perception of the opioid crisis: 6 key findings from 7 national polls

To assess the public's perception of the nation's ongoing opioid overdose and addiction crisis, two public health researchers with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston analyzed findings from seven national polls conducted in 2013, 2016 and 2017.

The analysis was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. Here are six key findings from the polls.

1. In a poll conducted by PBS NewsHour and Marist Poll in September 2017 38 percent of respondents said the opioid crisis was a major problem within their own community.

2. Among individuals who view opioid addiction as a serious health problem, 28 percent of respondents to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in April and July of 2016 said the problem ranked fifth among health crises facing the nation.

3. In a Pew Research poll conducted in October 2017, 38 percent of respondents said the opioid crisis was an extremely serious public health issue, compared to just 19 percent of respondents who shared this belief in a 2013 Pew survey.

4. Twenty percent of respondents to a 2016 poll conducted by STAT and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said they'd known someone who'd died as a result of their prescription opioid use in the last five years.

5. In an April 2017 poll conducted by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, 45 percent of respondents said they were in favor of limiting opioid prescriptions to seven days.

6. In a poll conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Politico in November 2017, only about half of respondents — 49 percent — said there's effective long-term treatment for prescription-painkiller addiction.

"An important finding from our review is that at a time when public- and private-sector leaders are seeking a substantial increase in government funding for opioid-addiction treatment programs and legislation requiring insurers to offer coverage for these treatments, polls show a large share of the public uncertain about the long-term effectiveness of treatment," concluded the authors of the analysis. "There is a clear need for the medical and scientific communities to educate the public about the issues surrounding the potential effectiveness of treatment."

More articles on opioids: 
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Disabled Medicare beneficiaries in low income counties more likely to be prescribed opioids 
UPMC Hamot devotes new center to treating pregnant women with opioid addiction

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