RICHMOND, Va., Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ --
Today, results of a major new national survey of more than
1,500 people provide the first in-depth look at how
Americans view opioid addiction -- addiction to heroin or
prescription opioid painkillers -- and its treatments.
Prescription Painkiller/Heroin Addiction and Treatment
reveals roughly half (46%) of the respondents do not
understand that prescription opioid painkiller abuse is as
harmful as heroin abuse in terms of how it affects the body.
The significance of the public's misunderstanding of this
danger is underlined by another major survey finding --
nearly 4 in 10 Americans (37%) surveyed know someone
personally who has abused opioid painkillers. Reckitt
Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. sponsored the survey,
conducted by Schulman, Ronca, & Bucuvalas, Inc.
Although abuse of prescription opioid
painkillers is beginning to be recognized as a significant
aspect of drug abuse in America, to date there are no
available data on what the public understands about the
disease of opioid dependence (i.e., addiction) and its
"By illustrating what the American public
thinks about opioid addiction and its treatment, this survey
does a great service to policymakers and healthcare
professionals who seek to educate consumers and bring
patients into treatment," said Edwin A. Salsitz, MD, of Beth
Israel Medical Center in New York City, and a practicing
clinician on addiction and treatment for opioid dependence.
"The public is just beginning to understand opioid
dependence as a disease. We need to educate consumers about
all treatment options, including office-based medical
therapy which allows opioid dependence to be treated with
the same privacy and discretion that's given to other
chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure."
Recent government reports show that nearly
4.4 million Americans abuse prescription painkillers and
that opioid painkillers are the fastest growing drug of
abuse among teenagers.* This new survey underscores the
urgency of educating the public that, as a substance of
abuse, prescription opioid painkillers are equivalent to
heroin. Even though opioid painkillers such as oxycodone or
morphine are appropriately prescribed to treat pain, their
abuse affects the brain in the same way, and to the same
extent, as heroin.
Other significant survey findings include:
-- Of those surveyed who know someone abusing opioid painkillers, more
than 20% report that the abuser is a co-worker.
-- More than half (54%) of those surveyed don't know that opioid
addiction is a medical disease, but two-thirds (66%) agree that
genetic factors contribute to drug addiction.
-- Survey respondents are most familiar with 12-step, abstinence, and
hospital-based treatment programs; only 4% volunteered that medical
treatment for opioid addiction is available in doctors' offices.
-- Over three-quarters (76%) of the population surveyed want access to
addiction treatment to be made as easy as possible, and 71% agree that
opioid-addicted people should be able to receive treatment in a
doctor's private office. Although 71% favor in-office treatment, only
55% are comfortable with their own doctor offering such treatment.
-- The public has different racial and demographic stereotypes for people
addicted to opioid painkillers compared to those addicted to heroin.
This survey reveals only a basic
understanding among respondents of opioid dependence
treatment options and virtually no awareness of treating
this chronic brain disease in the privacy of a doctor's
Patient Attitudes About Opioid Addiction
In a related survey, a separate cohort of
57 patients receiving medication for opioid dependence was
questioned. Highlights of their responses include:
-- The sociodemographic make-up of the patient cohort includes a
plurality (57%) who are employed and another 18% who are either
homemakers, students, or retired.
-- Of the patients surveyed, almost all (96%) abused opioid painkillers,
65 % abused heroin, and 61% abused both.
-- A small percentage of patients surveyed (16%) think people can stop
using opioids if they want to.
-- Most patients surveyed (91%) say "cold turkey" is not effective in
treating opioid addiction.
Upcoming U.S. Senate Symposium
To address key issues related to the
medical treatment of heroin and opioid painkiller
dependence, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Orrin Hatch
(R-UT) will sponsor a Senate Symposium highlighting the
success of office-based treatment for opioid dependence
using buprenorphine. The date of the Symposium is still to
"The millions of Americans who suffer from
opioid dependence deserve access to all available medical
treatments," said Senator Carl Levin. "As more physicians
become certified to prescribe buprenorphine to treat this
devastating disease in their offices rather than a
centralized clinic, those afflicted with opioid addiction
all across the country will benefit equally from this
revolutionary treatment option."
"Just as depression came out of the closet
when it was recognized as a treatable brain disease, so
should opioid dependence," said Senator Orrin Hatch. "The
results we will present at the Senate Symposium underscore
the findings of this national attitudinal survey. Clearly,
education is the key to increasing awareness and opening up
sufficient in-office medical treatment opportunities to help
opioid-dependent people manage their disease discreetly and
About the Survey
The target population for Prescription
Painkiller/Heroin Addiction and Treatment is a national
sample of 1,503, aged 18 years and older, living in a
non-institutionalized setting in the United States. SRBI
researchers contacted US households by random digit dialing
(RDD) among a geographically stratified sample of telephone
banks with working residential telephone numbers. Within
households with more than one adult, the designated
respondent was selected by the most recent/next birthday.
The survey results of the total national sample have a
maximum expected margin of error of +/- 2.5 % at the 95%
level of confidence. As part of Prescription
Painkiller/Heroin Addiction and Treatment, a separate,
parallel survey of 57 people being treated with Suboxone(R)
(buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCl dihydrate) C-III Sublingual
Tablets for opioid dependence was conducted. Responses of
the 57 interviewed patients provide information about their
opinions and experiences as persons under treatment for
Copies of Prescription Painkiller/Heroin
Addiction and Treatment are available to download from