Two-thirds of Americans believe the federal and state governments should do more to combat the nation’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic, according to new results from the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
Only a third in the Kaiser poll said heroin abuse is an “extremely serious” health problem in the United States and even fewer — only about a quarter — said abuse of strong prescription painkillers is an “extremely serious” health problem. This is despite 44 percent of Americans reporting that they personally know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers.
Still, two-thirds of Americans acknowledge prescription pain relief abuse as either “extremely serious” or “very serious.”
The Kaiser poll showed Americans feel the effort to address the growing abuse of opioids is not aggressive enough at any level — not by federal and state governments and not by doctors and users. However, more Americans fault the users than government: About 70 percent said drug users aren’t doing enough to deal with addiction and 60 percent said federal efforts are too small.
In the survey, about 80 percent said the following steps would be at least somewhat effective:
• Increasing pain management training for doctors and students.
• Increasing access to addiction treatment programs.
• Increasing public awareness programs.
• Increasing research about pain and pain management.
• Monitoring how doctors prescribe prescription painkillers.
The poll, conducted in mid-April, also revealed most people don’t know the Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance plans provide mental health benefits and substance abuse treatment under the same copays, deductibles and coverage limits they apply to other medical services.
“This survey is just the latest in a long line of evidence that this out-of-control epidemic is affecting every one of us — no matter our background, no matter where we live,” said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “I agree that the federal government must do more and be a better partner with state and local officials who are on the front lines every day.”
Lisa Neff is senior news editor for the Wisconsin Gazette.