As America battles its deadliest drug epidemic in history, a new poll unveils the staggering impact of substance abuse on families across the nation. According to the KFF poll, nearly 1 in 10 adults has lost a family member to a drug overdose.
The scope of the issue is far-reaching, extending beyond the tragic loss of life. More than one in four say they or a family member has been addicted to opioids, including prescription painkillers and illegal drugs, such as heroin. Rural residents (42%) and White adults (33%) are some of the hardest-hit groups.
In addition to opioids, many Americans have been impacted by other drugs or alcohol. Almost two-thirds of adults surveyed revealed that they or a family member have struggled with substance use disorder from alcohol or drugs, experienced homelessness because of addiction, or suffered a drug overdose leading to an emergency room visit, hospitalization, or death.
Not only are more Americans struggling with drug addiction, but also alcohol use disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths caused by alcohol use jumped 26% from 2019 to 2020. According to this new poll, more than half of adults say that someone in their family has been addicted to alcohol, and about 1 in 8 adults admits that they may have been addicted to alcohol themselves.
Because of these statistics, many Americans have concerns about substance use disorder and its devastating consequences. About half of the respondents expressed concerns that a family member might fall victim to substance use disorder, with an additional one-third apprehensive about opioid overdoses. Fentanyl in particular is a concern, with almost four in ten people worried that someone in their family will unintentionally consume the opioid. Respondents in rural areas expressed more concern about these issues overall.
Beyond gauging personal experiences, the poll delved into public support for strategies aimed at preventing drug overdoses. Overwhelmingly, the public favors measures like addiction treatment centers in local communities (90%) and the widespread availability of Narcan (naxolone), a life-saving medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, at venues such as bars, health clinics, and fire stations (82%). Fewer, but still nearly half (45%), support safe consumption sites where people can use illegal drugs monitored by trained personnel without fear of overdose, prosecution, or spreading disease.
The KFF survey talked to more than 1,300 adults over the phone or online in mid-July.