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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard Poll Finds Many Americans Know Someone Who Has Abused Prescription Painkillers and Suffered Major Harmful Effects

A new national poll by The Boston Globe and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that in an era when concern about drug abuse has been very high, more U.S. adults are concerned about prescription painkiller abuse than about heroin.

While more than half (51 percent) of Americans believe that the abuse of strong prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet, is an extremely or very serious problem in their state, 45 percent say the same of heroin. Nearly four in ten (39 percent) believe that the problem of prescription painkiller abuse has gotten worse over the last five years, while an almost equal proportion (38 percent) believe the problem has stayed about the same.

Many Americans report knowing someone who has abused prescription painkillers

Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) say they have known someone during the past five years who has abused prescription painkillers. Of those who have known someone who has had this problem, a majority say it has had a major harmful effect on the user’s family life (67 percent), work life (58 percent), and health (55 percent). In addition, 21 percent say that the person’s abuse of prescription painkillers led to their death.

“For much of the public, the issue of prescription painkiller abuse is not just a remote concern; it’s a problem they see in their personal lives,” said Dr. Robert J. Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Those who have known someone who has abused prescription painkillers hold different views about the problem than those who have not. They are significantly more likely to think abuse of prescription painkillers is an extremely or very serious problem in their state (64 percent vs. 43 percent) and that the problem has gotten worse over the past five years (56 percent vs. 28 percent). In addition, they are more likely to believe that prescription painkiller abuse makes a person more likely to use heroin or other illegal drugs (59 percent vs. 45 percent). Read now