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Massachusetts Public Opinion Poll: The State of the Opioid Epidemic

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Massachusetts residents rate the opioid epidemic as the most serious problem facing the state today, far outpacing other issues including jobs, the economy or health care costs, according to a new opinion poll released today by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (“Blue Cross”). The poll, conducted in January 2018 by Anderson-Robbins Research, finds significant differences in how residents across the Commonwealth view this public health epidemic, its causes and potential solutions. The crisis is personal for most adults in Massachusetts - a majority know someone who has been addicted, and 1 in 4 know someone who died of an opioid overdose. Very few think things are getting better.


Other key findings include:

• Legally prescribed drugs are seen as fueling the epidemic more than illegal drugs. Half think current regulations make strong prescription painkillers too easy to get in Massachusetts; very few think they are too difficult to get.

• Most respondents think those with opioid use disorder are at least somewhat to blame for their addiction. A lack of desire to give up the addiction by those addicted is viewed as the biggest barrier to recovery.

• Rural communities across Massachusetts feel particularly vulnerable

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Massachusetts Public Opinion Poll: The State of the Opioid Epidemic

  1. 1. OPIOID EPIDEMIC PUBLIC OPINION POLL MARCH 2018 PREPARED BY ANDERSON ROBBINS RESEARCH
  2. 2. Telephone survey conducted by trained professional interviewers from a central, monitored location 601 Massachusetts adults January 9-15, 2018 Slight demographic weights were applied to ensure the sample accurately reflects the demographic profile of the Massachusetts population ±4 at the 95% confidence level for the entire sample; the margin of error for subgroups is higher Some data may not add to 100% due to rounding Survey commissioned by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and conducted by Anderson Robbins ABOUT THE SURVEY MODE SAMPLE INTERVIEWING DATES WEIGHTS MARGIN OF ERROR NOTE SOURCE
  3. 3. Opioid addiction is the most important issue facing communities in Massachusetts today and very few think it is getting better. KEY FINDINGS • A majority know someone who has been addicted to opioids. • 3-in-10 know someone who died of an overdose. PERSONAL IMPACT • There are many serious contributing factors and no clear solution. • Legally prescribed drugs are seen as fueling the epidemic more than illegal drugs. • Half think current regulations make strong prescription painkillers too easy to obtain. CONTRIBUTING TO THE EPIDEMIC
  4. 4. • The opioid epidemic is largely seen as a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue. • Although the epidemic is seen as disease rather than choice, this is by a much more narrow margin. KEY FINDINGS, CONT. • Most think those addicted to opioids are at least somewhat to blame for their addiction. • Lack of desire to give up their addiction is seen as the biggest barrier to recovery. STIGMA STILL SURROUNDS OPIOID ADDICTION: • Increasing access to rehabilitation and treatment is seen as the most important way to combat the epidemic in Massachusetts. • Increased law enforcement and additional education follow in importance. COMBATING THE EPIDEMIC:
  5. 5. RIGHT DIRECTION Q1: First, do you feel things in Massachusetts are generally heading in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track? 38% 49% 53% 61% 67% 64% 50% 44% 40% 31% 25% 28% Jan '11 Jan '12 Jan '13 Jan '14 Jan '15 Jan '16 Jan '17 Jan '18 A WIDE MAJORITY BELIEVES MASSACHUSETTS IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION WRONG TRACK Note: Remainder Not Sure/Refused
  6. 6. THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IS THE MOST FREQUENTLY MENTIONED ISSUE FACING COMMUNITIES Biggest issues facing community Jan 2018 Jan 2016 Jan 2015 Jan 2014 Addiction / drugs / opioid abuse 18% 16% 8% 4% Economy / jobs 13 18 18 26 Lower taxes 13 10 16 15 Education 12 16 15 15 High cost of living 11 9 18 9 Infrastructure 11 7 10 6 Politics / politicians 11 5 8 4 Healthcare 9 18 15 18 Crime 8 9 7 10 Race / social issues 5 2 4 - Environment 5 3 2 2 Budget / government spending 4 4 7 5 Illegal immigration 4 1 3 1 Poverty 3 3 4 3 Homelessness 3 - - - Note: responses under 3% are not shown ADDICTION / DRUGS / OPIOID ABUSE: North 24% South 24% Suburbs 17% West 16% Boston 7% Q2: What do you see as the biggest issues facing your community right now?
  7. 7. 25% 28% 29% 31% 38% 58% 71% THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC THE COST OF HEALTHCARE HIGH TAXES Q3-Q9: I am going to mention some specific issues facing Massachusetts. Please tell me if you think each is a very serious problem, somewhat serious problem, not a serious problem, or not a problem at all. TRAFFIC AND CONGESTION THE QUALITY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION CRIME AND VIOLENCE JOBS AND THE ECONOMY THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IS RATED THE MOST SERIOUS PROBLEM FACING MASSACHUSETTS VERY SERIOUS
  8. 8. 5% 13% 19% 11% 24% 17% 16% 29% 38% 40% 28% 13% 14% 18% 14% 37% 49% 15% 18% 10% Very / Somewhat approve Somewhat / Very disapprove GOV. CHARLIE BAKER THE MA LEGISLATURE ATTORNEY GENERAL MAURA HEALEY PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP U.S. CONGRESS Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ10 – Q14: Do you approve or disapprove of the work each of the following people or groups have done to combat the opioid epidemic? Neutral MA POLITICAL LEADERS GET LUKEWARM GRADES ON HANDLING THE EPIDEMIC; TRUMP AND CONGRESS SEEN AS FAILING
  9. 9. 8% 38% 52% A NATIONAL EMERGENCY A MAJOR PROBLEM BUT NOT A NATIONAL EMERGENCY A MINOR PROBLEM / NOT A PROBLEM AT ALL Nov 2017 data from POLITICO/Harvard School of Public Health poll of 1,009 US adults Q15: Would you describe the problem of opioid addiction to prescription pain medications in this country as: 16% 53% 28% A NATIONAL EMERGENCY A MAJOR PROBLEM BUT NOT A NATIONAL EMERGENCY A MINOR PROBLEM / NOT A PROBLEM AT ALL MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY THAN OTHER AMERICANS TO VIEW THE EPIDEMIC AS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY Note: Remainder Not Sure/Refused JANUARY 2018: MASSACHUSETTS ADULTS NOVEMBER 2017: NATIONAL ADULTS
  10. 10. 47% 36% 9%GETTING BETTER NOTHING CHANGING GETTING WORSE Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ16: Do you think that the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts is getting worse, getting better or is nothing really changing? [ROTATE 1-2] HALF THINK THE EPIDEMIC IS GETTING WORSE; ONLY ONE-IN-TEN SEE PROGRESS
  11. 11. 51% 30% 7%TOO HARD ABOUT RIGHT TOO EASY Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ56: Do you believe regulations around the availability and prescribing of strong prescription painkillers make it too easy or too hard for people to get strong prescription painkillers, or do you think they are about right? HALF THINK IT IS TOO EASY TO GET PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS
  12. 12. 37% 24% 34% DRUGS PRESCRIBED BY A DOCTOR ILLEGAL DRUGS (BOTH / COMBINATION) Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ27: For most people addicted to opioids in Massachusetts, do you think addiction starts by using: [ROTATE] RESIDENTS THINK MORE ADDICTION STARTS FROM LEGALLY PRESCRIBED DRUGS, THAN ILLEGAL DRUGS
  13. 13. 61% 57% 56% 57% 25% 27% 31% 29% OVERALL URBAN SUBURBAN RURAL Excellent/Good Poor/Fair RESIDENTS GIVE POOR RATINGS FOR AVAILABLE ADDICTION CARE AND TREATMENT Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ28: How would you rate the care and treatment available to Massachusetts families dealing with opioid addiction
  14. 14. STIGMA
  15. 15. 36% 8% 55%A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE A LAW ENFORCE- MENT ISSUE (BOTH) Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ34: Do you think the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts is an issue that should be addressed as more of [ROTATE] THE EPIDEMIC IS VIEWED AS MORE OF A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE THAN A LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUE
  16. 16. 31% 28% 39%*IT IS A DISEASE IT IS A CHOICE (COMBINATION) Note: Remainder Not Sure/RefusedQ36: Which comes closer to your view about opioid addition: [ROTATE] *Post-grads 57% RESIDENTS HAVE MIXED VIEWS ON WHETHER ADDICTION IS A DISEASE OR A CHOICE
  17. 17. ALL OF THE BLAME MOST OF THE BLAME SOME OF THE BLAME Q35: How much blame, if any, do you place on the people who are addicted to opioids for their addiction? NOT MUCH OF THE BLAME NONE OF THE BLAME RESIDENTS BELIEVE THOSE ADDICTED TO OPIOIDS SHARE AT LEAST SOME OF THE BLAME FOR THEIR CONDITION 3% 12% 51% 23% 8% Note: Remainder Not Sure/Refused
  18. 18. 58% 67% 72% More people view opioid addiction as a healthcare problem rather than a law enforcement problem More people view opioid addiction as a disease rather than a choice Fewer people view those suffering from opioid addiction as deserving of blame for their addiction Q38-Q40: Now I’d like to get your opinion on how attitudes towards the opioid epidemic have changed in recent years. Please tell me if you agree or disagree with each of the following statements. COMPARED TO A FEW YEARS AGO MAJORITIES AGREE THAT VIEWS ARE SHIFTING AWAY FROM CRIMINALIZATION/STIGMATIZATION PERSPECTIVES AGREE
  19. 19. 50% 55% 56% 63% 66% NOT WANTING TO GIVE UP ADDICTION LACK OF ACCESS TO TREATMENT PROGRAMS PHYSICIANS CONTINUING TO PRESCRIBE OPIOID PAINKILLERS Q41-Q45: For those suffering from opioid addiction, do you think each of the following is a major barrier to recovery from addiction, a minor barrier, or not a barrier at all SHAME OF ADDICTION & FEAR OF BEING STIGMA- TIZED AS AN ADDICT A LACK OF HOPE THAT THEY CAN REJOIN SOCIETY RESIDENTS SEE A RANGE OF MAJOR BARRIERS TO RECOVERY; LACK OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TOPS THE LIST MAJOR BARRIERS
  20. 20. COMBATING THE EPIDEMIC
  21. 21. 5% 5% 6% 7% 13% 16% 21% 27% 43%Make rehab/treatment/funding available to all who need it Increased law enforcement/stricter laws More education about opioids Q46: In your opinion, what needs to be done to stop the opioid overdose epidemic? Note: responses under 4% are not shown WAYS TO STOP THE OPIOID OVERDOSE EPIDEMIC INCREASING THE AVAILABILITY OF REHABILITATION AND TREATMENT PROGRAMS TOPS VOTERS’ LIST OF WAYS TO COMBAT THE EPIDEMIC Doctors should prescribe less/be held accountable Use non-addictive painkillers/use other pain management techniques Hold pharmaceutical companies accountable Ban use of fentanyl/addictive painkillers Increased monitoring of doctors who prescribe opioids Decriminalize drugs
  22. 22. 68% 76% 79% 85% 87% 88% 88% 89% 91% Requiring doctors to inform patients about risk of addiction when prescribing strong painkillers Increasing the use of so-called medication management to support rehabilitation Adding education about opioid and painkiller addiction to school curriculums Q47-Q55: I am going to read some proposals for dealing with the opioid addiction crisis in Massachusetts. Please tell me if you think each proposal is an excellent, good, not very good, or a bad idea for dealing with opioid addiction here. Increasing funding to make substance abuse treatment/rehab facilities more readily available Increasing training for doctors/nurses/pharmacists about painkillers/opioid addiction Increasing state monitoring of doctors who prescribe opioids Make opioid overdose reversal medicine more widely available Increased monitoring of opioid prescriptions by health insurers Increasing state monitoring of patients who are prescribed opioids RESIDENTS THINK THAT A WIDE RANGE OF PROPOSALS ARE EXCELLENT OR GOOD IDEAS FOR DEALING WITH THE STATE’S OPIOID CRISIS EXCELLENT / GOOD IDEA
  23. 23. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
  24. 24. 77% 22%YES NO Q57: During the past two years, have you taken any strong prescription painkillers, such as Percocet, OxyContin, or Vicodin, prescribed by a doctor for you to use for more than a few days, or not? 79% 20%YES NO ONE-FIFTH OF RESIDENTS HAVE TAKEN RX PAINKILLERS IN THE PAST TWO YEARS – ESSENTIALLY UNCHANGED FROM 2015 April 2015 trend from Boston Globe/Harvard School of Public Health poll of 810 Massachusetts adults JANUARY 2018 APRIL 2015 Note: Remainder Not Sure/Refused
  25. 25. 56% 44%YES NO [IF YES TO Q57] Q58: Before or while you were taking these strong prescription painkillers, did you and your doctor talk about the risk of prescription painkiller addiction, or haven’t you talked about that? 61% 36%YES NO MORE RX PAINKILLER USERS DISCUSSED THE RISKS OF ADDICTION WITH A DOCTOR THAN IN 2015 April 2015 trend from Boston Globe/Harvard School of Public Health poll of 810 Massachusetts adults JANUARY 2018 APRIL 2015 Note: Remainder Not Sure/Refused | N=131
  26. 26. 67% 33%CONCERNED NOT CONCERNED [IF YES TO Q57] Q59: When you were taking these strong prescription painkillers, were you concerned that taking them could lead you to become addicted, or weren’t you concerned with that? 80% 20%CONCERNED NOT CONCERNED CONCERN ABOUT ADDICTION AMONG RX PAINKILLER USERS HAS ALSO INCREASED SINCE 2015 April 2015 trend from Boston Globe/Harvard School of Public Health poll of 810 Massachusetts adults JANUARY 2018 APRIL 2015 Note: Remainder Not Sure/Refused | N=131
  27. 27. 27% 45% 56% KNOW SOMEONE ADDICTED TO OPIOIDS KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS OVER- DOSED ON OPIOIDS KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS DIED FROM AN OVERDOSE Q60: Do you know anyone personally who has been addicted to opioids? AND Q61: Do you know anyone who has overdosed on opioids? AND Q62: Do you personally know anyone who has died from a prescription painkiller overdose, or not? MAJORITY OF RESIDENTS KNOW SOMEONE ADDICTED TO OPIOIDS AND OVER A QUARTER KNOW SOMEONE WHO DIED FROM AN OVERDOSE YES
  28. 28. 33% 51% 72% 77% 28% 47% 56% 74% 23% 41% 49% 61% ALL TYPES OF COMMUNITIES ARE AFFECTED, ESPECIALLY RURAL OPIOID EPIDEMIC IS A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM Q4: Please tell me if you think each is a very serious problem, somewhat serious, not a serious problem, or not a problem at all: Opioid epidemic AND Q60: Do you know anyone personally who has been addicted to opioids? AND Q61: Do you know anyone who has overdosed on opioids? AND Q62: Do you personally know anyone who has died from a prescription painkiller overdose, or not? KNOW SOMEONE ADDICTED TO OPIOIDS KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS OVER- DOSED ON OPIOIDS KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS DIED FROM AN OVERDOSE Urban Suburban Rural
  29. 29. PROFILE OF THE SAMPLE Category Group % of Sample Age 18 - 29 15 30 - 44 24 45 - 64 38 65+ 22 Gender Male 48 Female 52 Party ID Democrat 38 Republican 11 Independent 49 Socio-economic class High SES: Upper / upper middle class 23 Middle class, college degree 28 Middle class, non-college 18 Low SES: Lower / lower middle class 28 Category Group % of Sample Ethnicity White 81 Latino 6 Black 7 Region Urban 30 Suburban 52 Rural 16 Education High school or less 21 Some college 24 College degree 31 Graduate degree 23 Income Below $30,000 18 $30,000 - $60,000 22 $60,000 - $100,000 24 Above $100,000 24
  30. 30. MEDIA CONTACTS Greg Winter 617-246-2372 gregory.winter@bcbsma.com BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF MASSACHUSETTS Amy McHugh 617-246-2311 amy.mchugh@bcbsma.com

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