Understanding Americans' views on opioid pain reliever abuse

Colleen L. Barry, Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, Sarah E. Gollust, Jeff Niederdeppe, Marcus A. Bachhuber, Daniel W. Webster, Emma E. Mcginty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Aims: Opioid pain reliever abuse rates have increased sharply in the United States. This study examines Americans' personal experience with opioid pain reliever use and abuse, and views about the seriousness of the problem, factors causing it, responsibility for addressing it and support for policies to resolve it. Design: Public opinion survey. Setting and Participants: A nationally representative US adult sample (n=1111). Measures: Experiences with opioid pain relievers and views about the seriousness, causes of and responsibility for addressing the problem, and support for policies to reduce opioid pain reliever abuse. Findings: 28.2 per cent of Americans reported using opioid pain relievers in the last 12 months, 69.5% have used them in their life-time and 17.3% reported using these medications when not prescribed to them. Fifty-eight per cent ranked the problem as serious, on a par with other major health concerns. Individual-orientated factors, including a lack of understanding about how easy it is to become addicted (80.0%) and improper storage (65.1%) and disposal (64.1%), ranked highest as causes, and those abusing opioid pain relievers (83.8%) and their physicians (78.0%) were viewed as most responsible for solving the problem. Of the policies recommended to curb the epidemic, 14 of 16 were supported by a majority of Americans. Conclusions: Americans view the problem of opioid pain reliever abuse as serious, and support nearly all the policies recommended by medical, law enforcement, disease control and public health experts to curb the epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-93
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Society for the Study of Addiction.


  • Addiction
  • Opioid analgesics
  • Policy
  • Public opinion
  • Substance abuse
  • Surveys


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