ghp June 2015 | 39 While more than half (51%) of Americans believe that the abuse of strong prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet, is an extremely or very serious problem in their state, 45% say the same of heroin. Nearly four in ten (39%) believe that the problem of prescription painkiller abuse has gotten worse over the last five years, while an almost equal proportion (38%) believe the problem has stayed about the same. Many Americans report knowing someone who has abused prescription painkillers Nearly four in 10 (39%) say they have known someone during the past five years who has abused prescription painkillers. Of those who have known someone who has had this problem, a majority say it has had a major harmful effect on the user’s family life (67%), work life (58%), and health (55%). In ad- dition, 21% say that the person’s abuse of prescrip- tion painkillers led to their death. “For much of the public, the issue of prescription painkiller abuse is not just a remote concern; it’s a problem they see in their personal lives,” said Robert J. Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Those who have known someone who has abused prescription painkillers hold different views about the problem than those who have not. They are significantly more likely to think abuse of prescription painkillers is an extremely or very serious problem in their state (64% vs. 43%) and that the problem has gotten worse over the past five years (56% vs. 28%). In addition, they are more likely to believe that pre- scription painkiller abuse makes a person more likely to use heroin or other illegal drugs (59% vs. 45%). Americans’ views about the causes of prescription painkiller abuse Americans see multiple causes of prescription pain- killer abuse. More than half (55%) believe the ease of buying prescription painkillers illegally is a major cause of the problem in their state. Nearly half (45%) believe that the ease of getting prescription painkill- ers from people who have saved some from an old prescription or that doctors prescribing painkillers too often or in doses larger than necessary are also major causes. “We know that the prescription drug and heroin epidemic requires a comprehensive response,” said Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “That’s why the Obama Administration’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan focused on provider education on pain and sub- stance use disorders, prescription drug monitoring systems, safe drug disposal, and smart-on-crime enforcement. We are also working with Federal, State and local partners to increase access to effec- tive treatment, while reducing overdoses and other consequences of this epidemic.” Results of the poll indicate one discrepancy between public opinion and support for policy action. While 45% of U.S. adults say that painkillers being overpre- scribed is a major cause of painkiller abuse, less than three in ten (29%) believe that current state and federal regulations make prescription painkillers too easy for people to get. Public opinion divided on what government action should be taken No clear consensus emerges when it comes to expanding access to treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers or heroin. About half (48%) believe that their state government should require health insurers to provide more extensive coverage for treatment programs for people addicted to pre- scription painkillers or heroin, even if it adds to the cost of premiums for insured people. But an almost equal proportion (46%) oppose expanding treatment coverage by insurers beyond current requirements. When asked whether they believe there is a long-last- ing, effective treatment for prescription painkiller addiction, 45% of U.S. adults believe there is such a treatment, while the rest are split between saying that they don’t know (27%) and not believing that there is such a treatment (28%). Some states permit adults to buy a medicine called naloxone or Narcan, which reverses the effect of a prescription painkiller or heroin overdose in progress, from retail pharmacies. Other states restrict adults’ ability to buy the drug because they think it might encourage use of illegal drugs. Americans are divid- ed on whether or not adults should be allowed to buy naloxone at retail pharmacies, with 42% in favour and 47% opposed.