Right now, we have an astonishing 4.7 million Americans struggling with prescription painkiller addiction. That means it's increasingly rare to find people who haven't been directly or indirectly affected by the epidemic.
A new poll perfectly illustrates the far-reaching effects of prescription opioid abuse, revealing over 50 percent of Americans personally know someone who either abused, became addicted to or died from prescription painkillers.
The Massive Scope of Painkiller Abuse
The findings came from the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll, which collected data from interviews with 1,352 individuals. The poll showed:
- 56 percent of Americans knew someone who abused prescription painkillers
- Half of participants also reporting that they knew someone who took these medications without a prescription
- Nearly 39 percent of those polled said they knew someone who become addicted to these drugs
- 2 percent admitting they personally became addicted
- 16 percent of participants reported knowing someone who died from a prescription drug overdose
Many of these connections go well beyond peripheral:
- One-fourth of participants said they knew a family member or close friend who was addicted to prescription drugs
- 16 percent said they lost a family member or close friend to an overdose
- Whites were more likely than any other race to have a personal connection to painkiller abuse
- Young and middle-aged Americans were more likely to have a connection to it than adults ages 65 and older
Where's Our Focus?
Despite the high numbers of connection, addressing this problem still hasn't been viewed as a top priority.
Over 50 percent of the respondents said state legislators should make combating drug abuse as a top priority, but that's in comparison to 76 percent of participants who said education should be the top priority and 68 percent who want legislators to focus on healthcare access.
Despite the argument to make drug abuse a top priority, a staggering 63 percent of those polled said they wanted legislators to enact Good Samaritan laws that would allow people to report an overdose without the fear of being prosecuted.
Thirty-two states currently have Good Samaritan laws in place, up from 21 states in 2014 and 14 states in 2013.
How to Get Help
If you're looking to overcome a prescription drug habit, look for a rehab center that offers a medically-supervised detox program. Going cold turkey all alone is not recommended; the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely painful at best and potentially fatal at worst.
Once you are physically stabilized, you'll participate in various types of therapy - in both group and one-on-one settings - that will help you recognize the underlying triggers of your drug use. You'll also learn coping mechanisms that will equip you to better deal with those triggers in the future.
Remember: It's okay to ask for help. We all deserve to live long, happy, healthy and drug-free lives.
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