WASHINGTON — A slim majority of Americans see prescription drug addiction as a disease that requires medical treatment, but most would not welcome those suffering from the problem into their neighborhoods, workplaces or families.
New survey results reveal Americans’ complex view of addiction as the deadliest drug epidemic in US history ripples through communities nationwide. More than 1 in 10 Americans say they have had a relative or close friend die from an opioid overdose, according a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Opioids are an addictive class of drugs that includes both prescription medicines like Vicodin and OxyContin and illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Overdose deaths linked to the drugs have quadrupled since 2000, reaching an all-time high of 42,000 in 2016.
The wave of addiction has dragged down the national life expectancy, strained local budgets and challenged officials at every level of government. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation released Thursday found large employers spent a record $2.6 billion to treat opioid addiction and overdoses in 2016, an eightfold increase since 2004.
Most medical authorities view drug addiction as a disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes it as a long-term, treatable brain disease.
Although 53 percent of Americans view addiction as a medical problem, they remain wary of the afflicted. Fewer than 1 in 5 Americans are willing to closely associate with someone suffering from drug addiction as a friend, co-worker, or neighbor.