Public Does Not Understand Danger of Opioid Addiction

March 12, 2015|4:06 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The conclusion from a new report being finalized by the National Safety Council is sweeping: Americans have a severe knowledge gap when it comes to prescription painkillers.

The abuse of opioid medication, whether intentional or not, and which public health has taken to describing as an epidemic, has been an emphasis across the public health enterprise for several years. ASTHO made it a presidential challenge, and the National Governor’s Association also made it a priority. In fact, in the last year alone many governors have been outspoken on the issue, including governors from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Maryland, and two different Massachusetts governors (here and here), as well as many others across the country. The media is doing its part, too, as every major, and probably most minor, mainstream media outlet has covered the topic, most of them multiple times. And yet we have a pretty massive disconnect concerning perceived danger versus actual danger:


The report’s key takeaways are:

  • Americans don’t know their painkillers contain opioids, or that it is a felony to share them.
  • Opioid users are unconcerned about addiction, but most have reason to worry.
  • Opioid users overestimate the benefits of opioids and underestimate the risks of addiction or death.

The report is based on a representative sample of adults aged 18 or older and balanced to U.S. Census figures for gender, age, geographic region, and ethnicity. The National Safety Council reports that additional results from the survey will be released in the next few months.