Problems and Challenges of Prescription Opioid Use

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According to KJT Group’s most recent LightSource Poll, opioid dependence is a top-ranked healthcare concern for fewer Americans (24%) as compared with “high prices for prescription medications” (54%), “increasing premiums for health care plans” (48%), and “high copays/deductibles” (40%).

The poll, conducted in August and September of 2018, shows that a nationally representative sample of Americans have mixed, even contradictory, feelings about the value of opioids relative to usage risks. A substantial majority of Americans (72%) agreed that “prescription opioids are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor.” However, more than three-quarters (76%) agreed that “even short-term and correct use of prescription opioids can lead to dependence or addiction” and that “opioids are currently over-prescribed by health care providers” (77%).

These concerns are seemingly reflected in Americans’ hesitation to use prescription opioids personally or for those under their care.  A quarter (25%) of respondents were unwilling to use prescription opioids if prescribed in any of the five hypothetical medical scenarios we examined. Of those willing to consider any off the scenarios, end-of-life or palliative care was most often selected. Even fewer were willing to use opioids for their children in every situation.

Attitudes were similar across race and ethnicity except for end-of-life care, for which Caucasians were significantly more likely than African Americans and Hispanics to consider opioid medications for themselves or an older adult under their care.

A recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health1 suggested a high probability for the typical American patient being prescribed an opioid for pain relief. They found insurance overage patterns, overall, were very similar for opioid and non-opioid options, with commercial plans including 74% of the considered opioid medications in the tier one formulary.

Despite the belief we found that opioid medications are over-prescribed and can lead to addiction even with correct use, they serve an important role in pain relief, and many Americans are still willing to use them as prescribed. These poll results highlight the need for further education about the benefits and risks of prescription opioid use, as well as refining utilization management policies among insurers and prescribers.

The LightSource Poll was conducted among 1,000 United States residents (18 years or older) between August 20th and September 17th, 2018. These were non-probability, stratified samples, collected via web-based interviews. As such, margin of error cannot be accurately estimated. The LightSource employs stratified sampling, focusing on key factors such as age, gender, household income, and U.S. geographic region to help ensure national representation.


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