Itasca, IL – 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 Aug. 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' opioid epidemic and how Illinoisans perceive it. Despite the crisis impacting so many, 41% of those surveyed are not concerned about prescription pain medication as a potential cause of death or injury for their family. Only 35% 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," NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "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."
2,350 Illinoisans died of drug overdoses, and prescription opioids or heroin contributed to nearly 80% of these deaths. NSC today signed a petition to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to seek removal of ultra-high dosage unit 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 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% were concerned about becoming addicted to opioids, despite 51% reporting a personal or family history that puts them at risk of addiction
- 40% kept leftover drugs for future use
- 65% of Illinoisans do not know that sharing their opioid painkillers is a felony offense, the legal equivalent of selling heroin
- 38% have never heard of naloxone, an overdose antidote available without a prescription at no cost
- Only 16% of Illinoisans feel confident they can spot the signs of misuse or abuse of painkillers
- Only 18% are very confident they can spot the signs of an overdose
- 35% are not confident they know where to go if they or someone they know needs treatment
nsc.org/rxpainkillers for information about prescription opioid and heroin abuse and misuse
About the National Safety Council
Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact – distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities.