It’s no surprise that the nation is facing a drug epidemic. In the 1980s, it was crack cocaine. Currently, prescription painkillers are at the forefront of the news: substance abuse, addiction, and fatal overdose stories splash the headlines almost daily. And not everyone is getting the opiate addiction treatment they need.
Considering the rise in both use of prescription drugs and news items relating the current state affairs regarding these powerful narcotics, NPR and Truven Health Analytics conducted a nationwide poll in May to find out how Americans feel about prescription narcotics, such as painkillers like oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).
It turns out that most Americans fear the possibility of addiction as their number one concern when it comes to being prescribed painkillers for legitimate pain-causing conditions.
The results of the poll are based on responses from 3,010 people collected during the first half of May.
Seventy-eight% of respondents said they believe there is a link between drug addiction and the use of narcotic painkillers.
Of those surveyed, a little more than half have taken prescription painkillers at some point in their lives, with the most common reason by far being to relieve some kind of temporary pain, such as a sprained ankle, during post-surgery recuperation, or due to a dental procedure; about 1 in 5 surveyed said that they had taken this class of drug for a chronic pain condition.
The poll revealed that, among all other possible concerns with taking opiate drugs, the top worry was the fear of developing addiction; about 36% of people surveyed said addiction best described their concerns.A little more than a third – or 36% – of those polled who had taken narcotic painkillers also had concerns about these drugs. The concern regarding prescription painkillers was a bit lower for people who had never taken them but, not by much. Their number was at about the 30% mark.
After fear of addiction, about 30% of people who participated were most concerned about side effects. (Common side effects associated with opiates are sleepiness, constipation, and nausea).
The rest of the participants were concerned with long-term effects (14%); drug abuse (9%); efficacy (5%); cost (3%); ‘other’ (3%); lastly, religious issue (1%).
Issues at Stake
According to medical journalist and author of “A Nation in Pain, Judy Foreman says that, due to an epidemic of abuse and the resulting fear, pain in this country is largely going untreated.
As it turns out, about a quarter of people surveyed in the poll admitted that they had either refused or questioned a prescription for a narcotic painkiller. When the same group polled people back in 2011 regarding painkillers, the answer to that question was about the same.
Then there is the question of how to deal with new, even more powerful opioid-based drugs hitting the market. There are several states that are now trying to ban an extended-release drug known as Zohydro, the newest in FDA-approved painkillers. If successful, that means that patients who suffer from chronic pain and who live in a state with strict regulations in place will find it next to impossible to get a prescription for pain medications that offer long-term relief.
In the poll, a majority of Americans say drugs like Zohydro should be available.
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