Chronic pain ranks well below drug addiction as a major health problem in new poll

April 09, 2013

ALEXANDRIA, Va.--April 9, 2013--A new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America shows only 18% of respondents believe chronic pain is a major health problem, even though a majority of Americans (63%) say they know someone who experienced pain so severe that they sought prescription medicines to treat it. Chronic pain conditions affect about 100 million U.S. adults at a cost of approximately $600 billion annually in direct medical treatment costs and lost productivity.

Most Americans are concerned about the misuse of pain medication to treat chronic pain. A high percentage (82%) believes that taking prescription painkillers for long-term, chronic pain could result in addiction, which nearly 50% of Americans describe as a major health problem. An overwhelming majority (85%) are very concerned or somewhat concerned that prescription pain medication can be abused or misused. Indeed, 40% believe that prescription medication abuse and addiction is a major problem in their community.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 1.9 million people are addicted to prescription pain relievers. The number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers has quadrupled since 1999, outnumbering those from heroin and cocaine combined. As drug addiction becomes more prevalent, most Americans are split on whether addiction and chronic pain are getting the attention they deserve by medical researchers, elected officials and media.

"We need to better understand addiction," said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. "We shouldn't shy away from research on new pain treatments based on fears of abuse. The suffering is simply too great. More robust investment in research and the engagement and support of policy makers and health care providers are essential to developing effective strategies to reduce the prevalence of addiction."

Two-thirds of those polled (66%) were unaware that tamper- and abuse-resistant formulations for some prescription pain medications are now available. These formulations of medications have physical and chemical properties that make them more difficult to abuse; for example, making pills harder to crush to inject or snort.

Other poll highlights:The national public opinion poll was conducted online in March 2013 by Zogby Analytics for Research!America. The poll had a sample size of 1,016 with a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.1%.
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To view the poll, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/March2013painaddiction.pdf

About Research!America polls

Research!America began commissioning polls in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America's polls have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Poll data is available by request or at http://www.researchamerica.org.

About Research!America

Research!America is the nation's largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit http://www.researchamerica.org.

Research!America

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