58 percent of Americans say opioid painkiller abuse is either a very serious or extremely serious health issue, on par with public health problems such as gun violence or tobacco use, a new survey finds
According to HealthDay, about one-fourth of respondents reported taking a prescription painkiller such as hydrocodone or oxycodone in the past year,.
About 70 percent said they have been prescribed opioid painkillers at some point in their lives, and almost 20 percent said they have taken painkillers that were prescribed for someone else.
"This study shows that many Americans have had direct experience using prescription pain relievers and a sizable share have misused or abused these medications themselves, or have close friends or family members who have done so," study leader Colleen Barry of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a university news release.
Drug overdoses, primarily involving prescription painkillers, surpassed car crashes in 2012 to become the top cause of injury death, the researchers reported. The findings of the web-based survey of more than 1,100 adults are published in Addiction.
A majority of respondents said doctors keep patients on prescription painkillers for too long, that it is too easy for people to get more than one pain medication prescription, and that patients do not understand how easily they can become addicted.
The survey showed support for additional training for doctors in how to treat pain and addiction. Respondents also favored measures to keep patients from receiving multiple painkiller prescriptions from different doctors, and rules that require pharmacists to verify patients' identity before giving out opioid painkillers.
Only 47 percent supported policies to expand distribution of the opioid overdose medication naloxone, and only 39 percent supported increased government spending on addiction treatment.