The drug epidemic has become deadlier than ever in the United States in recent years, and a new poll from KFF captures the significant toll that substance use has had on families nationwide.
More than a quarter of adults surveyed say they or a member of their family has been addicted to prescription painkillers or other illegal opioids, and nearly 1 in 10 adults has had a family member die of a drug overdose, the poll found.
Nearly 110,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2022, federal data shows – more than any other calendar year. And fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid, has been a significant factor in the rise of deadly overdoses; synthetic opioids were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths last year.
Alcohol use disorder has also been on the rise in the US, and it became significantly more deadly during the Covid-19 pandemic. The rate of deaths caused by alcohol use jumped 26% between 2019 and 2020, making nearly the same climb in one year as over the decade before, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and killing more than 49,000 people in 2020.
More than half of adults say that someone in their family has ever been addicted to alcohol, and about 1 in 8 adults says that they may have been addicted to alcohol themselves, according to the new KFF survey.
As the US faces a mental health crisis, most adults are concerned about how substance use and addiction may affect their family. About a third of adults are worried that someone in their family will overdose on opioids, and nearly 2 in 5 are worried that they will unintentionally consume fentanyl, according to the KFF survey.
A significant share of people in the US have had close personal experience with the negative effects of addiction, KFF found.
About two-thirds of adults surveyed say that they or a family member have been addicted to alcohol or drugs, experienced homelessness due to addiction, or experienced a drug overdose leading to an emergency room visit, hospitalization or death.
Many say that addiction has had “major” impacts on their mental health, on relationships within their family and on the family’s financial situation.
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The concerns around opioid addiction are particularly prevalent among rural Americans, who were also more likely to say they’ve already experienced the effects.
The vast majority of adults support having addiction treatment centers in their community or making overdose reversal medications, such as naloxone, available widely, KFF found – but most adults say that family members who have experienced addiction did not receive treatment.
The KFF findings support earlier research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Center for Injury Prevention, which found that only about a third of adults with opioid use disorder received any type of treatment for substance use, and only about 1 in 5 received medication to treat opioid use disorder.
Findings from the KFF survey are based on responses from representative sample of more than 1,300 adults who were interviewed in mid-July.