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National Safety Council: 1 in 3 Illinoisans Has Been Directly Impacted By Opioid Abuse or Misuse

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Despite the scope of the problem, 41 percent say they’re not concerned that opioid painkillers are a danger to them or their families

Released August 31, 2017

A new poll from the National Safety Council shows one in three Illinois residents has been directly touched by the opioid epidemic. Residents may have personally known someone who has become addicted to opioids, known someone who overdosed or died from an overdose, or suffered from opioid use disorder themselves. The complete survey findings were released as the nation pauses for International Overdose Awareness Day, observed every August 31, to remember the more than 52,000 lives lost each year to drug overdose.

The survey findings illustrate the stark and troubling contrast between the scope of Illinois’s opioid epidemic and how Illinoisans perceive it. Despite the crisis impacting so many, 41 percent of those surveyed are not concerned about prescription pain medication as a potential cause of death or injury for their family. Only 35 percent ranked opioid overdose as a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Drug overdoses – largely from prescription opioids – are the No. 1 cause of preventable death among American adults, eclipsing motor vehicle crashes.

“We all are mere degrees of separation from the biggest public health crisis in recorded American history,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The good news is we can do something about it. This survey shows us where we need to focus attention so we can develop countermeasures that save lives.”

In 2016, 2,350 Illinoisans died of drug overdoses, and prescription opioids or heroin contributed to nearly 80 percent of these deaths.[1] NSC today signed a petition to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to seek removal of ultra-high dosage unit (UHDU) opioid analgesics from the market to combat the trend. Education, advocacy and strong laws can help, and NSC research indicates Illinois needs all three. In June, the NSC State of Safety report recommended that Illinois do more when it comes to treatment, prescriber education or the regulation of pain clinics – all of which could save lives and prevent overdoses.

Other key findings from the public opinion poll include:

  • Only 12 percent were concerned about becoming addicted to opioids, despite 51 percent reporting a personal or family history that puts them at risk of addiction
  • 40 percent kept leftover drugs for future use
  • 65 percent of Illinoisans do not know that sharing their opioid painkillers is a felony offense; it is the legal equivalent of selling heroin.
  • 38 percent have never heard of naloxone, an overdose antidote available without a prescription at no cost
  • Only 16 percent of Illinoisans feel confident they can spot the signs of misuse or abuse of painkillers
  • Only 18 percent are very confident they can spot the signs of an overdose
  • 35 percent are not confident they know where to go if they or someone they know needs treatment

Visit nsc.org/rxpainkillers for information about prescription opioid and heroin abuse and misuse