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New Jerseyans Nearly Unanimous About Seriousness of Opioid Problem In Garden State
Most Likely to Hold Doctors and Pharmaceutical Companies Responsible

Virtually all New Jerseyans believe opioid addiction to prescription pain medication is a “very” (73 percent) or “somewhat” (21 percent) serious problem, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll as part of its “Opioids in the Garden State” series. Just 3 percent of residents say it is “not very” serious, and 1 percent says opioid addiction to prescription pain medications is “not a problem at all.”

A solid majority believes opioid addiction to prescription pain medications is also a problem in their own community, although to a much lesser extent than they do about the state as a whole. About seven in 10 believe opioid addiction is a serious problem in their community (41 percent “very,” 30 percent “somewhat”); 11 percent say the problem is “not very serious” in their community; and 7 percent do not see it as a problem at all. Middle-aged residents, parents, shore residents, those in the highest income bracket and those who know someone who has abused opioids are especially more likely than their counterparts to feel addiction is a “very” or “somewhat” serious problem in their community.

When asked who should be held responsible for the problem, just over half say either the doctors who prescribe painkillers (27 percent) or the pharmaceutical companies that sell them (26 percent). About one in five say the people who take prescription painkillers are to blame (22 percent) or say it is a combination of all of the above (18 percent). White residents, 50 to 64 year olds and those in higher income brackets are especially more likely than their counterparts to place the majority of responsibility on doctors.

As for solutions, New Jerseyans far and away believe that limiting prescriptions of opioids (32 percent) and educating people about the risks (32 percent) are the two most effective ways to stop the opioid epidemic. Eleven percent say that treatment for addicted individuals would be the best resolution. Just 3 percent say increasing law enforcement efforts would help most. Fourteen percent say the best answer would be some combination of all of the above.

“New Jerseyans across the board hold doctors and pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid epidemic and also believe these same people are the key to ending it through limiting prescriptions,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Yet expanding treatment options – a priority for the current administration and legislature – does not seem to be on residents’ radar.”

Half say they are paying “a lot” of attention to the issue of addiction to prescription pain medications; about another quarter say they are paying “some” attention. Just under a quarter say they are paying “little” attention (15 percent) or “none at all” (8 percent).

Large majorities say they know at least something about how people get addicted to opioids (49 percent know “a lot,” 26 percent say “some”) and what causes opioid addiction (42 percent know “a lot,” 29 percent say “some”). About half feel they know at least something about where individuals who are addicted can get help (24 percent know “a lot,” 27 percent say “some”). About the same number say they know what the New Jersey state government is doing to address the problem (18 percent know “a lot,” 29 percent say “some”); but fewer are aware of what their local government is doing about it (14 percent know “a lot,” 20 percent say “some”).

“These findings suggest that an increasing number of individuals in the state are educated about the risks and causes of opioid addiction,” said Itzhak Yanovitzky, associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information and the co-lead of the study. “At the same time, the findings point to a persistent gap in what people know about available treatment options and what is being done in their community to address this epidemic. These are topics that public education efforts ought to target moving forward.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 704 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from April 26 to May 4, 2018. The sample has a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

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