Skip to main content

Views on the U.S. Opioid Crisis: A BPC-Morning Consult Poll

From 1999 to 2020, opioid overdose deaths claimed the lives of over half a million Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid-involved deaths continue to increase each year, with 2021 marking the first time the U.S. surpassed 100,000 related deaths in a single year. While federal and state governments in the U.S. have taken steps to combat the issue, public opinion remains a key element in addressing the crisis.

A BPC-Morning Consult poll conducted in May aims to give a clearer understanding of the public’s views on the misuse of opioids in the United States. While revealing that a majority of American adults consider the opioid crisis a major problem in the country, the poll also looks at the personal impact of opioid addiction and how Americans feel about Congress’ response to the opioid crisis.

Major Takeaways

Read Next

A majority of adults consider the misuse of opioids in the U.S. to be a major public health emergency.

Sixty-one percent of Americans consider the misuse of opioids in the U.S. to be a major public health emergency, a belief held by a majority of people from each political party: 66% of Democrats, 58% of Republicans, and 57% of independents. Another 21% of adults consider the misuse of opioids in the U.S. to be a minor public health emergency.

Did You Know? Though partially overshadowed by the attention given to the COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdose mortality rates have risen approximately 30% since 2019, and the U.S. surpassed 100,000 deaths in a 12-month period during 2021. While discussing the crisis in terms of related deaths is the best way to appreciate the scope of the opioid epidemic, a lag in data means that we don’t fully understand the crisis’ impact until 6 to 18 months after the fact.

American adults vary on where in the U.S. they believe the opioid crisis is a major problem.

American adults are more likely to think the opioid crisis is a major problem in the U.S. (68%) than in their own state (53%) or even their community (36%).

Did You Know? A Pew survey from May 2022 found that public concern about addiction is down, even in areas of the U.S. where drug overdose death rates have increased the most.

When comparing the treated prevalence—or the number of people being treated for a given disease—for opioid use disorders between patients in Medicaid expansion vs. non-expansion states, BPC found that there are about 2 to 3 times more people in treatment in expansion states.

An adult who is from a low-income or minority community is less likely to say the opioid crisis is a major problem in those communities than adults who are not.

Did You Know? The demographics among those with the highest drug overdose mortality are shifting from white Americans in the Northeast: mortality has increased by 81% among both Black Americans and Native Americans, and by 67% in the West since 2019.

Affordable, effective, and convenient treatment may seem difficult to find for opioid addiction despite its impact.

  • About one-third of Americans think it would be difficult to find convenient (29%), effective (31%), or affordable (36%) care for opioid addiction.

Did You Know? Despite historic levels of federal investments—$6.7 billion in discretionary spending and roughly four times that amount in Medicaid spending to be exact—in opioid-related programs, lawmakers are unsure whether these investments are having an impact. And speaking of impact: 15% of adults have been directly impacted by opioid addiction, while 30% of adults know someone who has been directly impacted by opioid addiction.

A bipartisan majority of adults do not think Congress is doing enough to combat the opioid crisis.

Is Congress doing enough? Most Americans say no. So, what can and should be done moving forward to combat the epidemic?

Looking Forward

With a lack of actionable data, it is difficult to know where and how dollars are being spent, and whether these dollars are lowering mortality rates and improving patient outcomes. BPC has recommended introducing actionable surveillance metrics and health service delivery metrics to better understand the state of the opioids crisis. In doing so, federal funds could be more effectively leveraged and applied to programs that that are shown to work.

The full report, Combating the Opioid Crisis: Smarter Spending to Enhance the Federal Response, can be found here.

Survey Methodology

Morning Consult surveyed a national sample of 2,210 adults. The survey was conducted between May 17-19, 2022. Results from the survey have a margin of error of +/- 2%.

Download Poll Topline Data
Download Survey Data
Downloads and Resources

Support Research Like This

With your support, BPC can continue to fund important research like this by combining the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans.

Give Now