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Poll shows unmet public needs in combating U.S. opioid epidemic

Posted on 06-30-16 in Advocacy, Mental Health, Substance Abuse

Poll shows unmet public needs in combating U.S. opioid epidemic

Substance abuse is a major public health problem that affects millions of people in the United States. Nearly half of all Americans reported that they were impacted by opioid drug abuse and dependence, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. In addition, an average of 78 Americans die from an overdose every day.

Because of this significant societal impact, state and federal government initiatives have made it a priority to reduce opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses in the United States and to expand coverage for substance abuse and mental health care services to Americans, through provisions like the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Despite these initiatives, Americans continue to lack access to substance abuse and mental health care that they need, and most people believe that the government is not doing enough to combat the problem of opioid abuse and dependence, according to the results of the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

In fact, the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll showed that less than half of American adults knew about the substance abuse and mental health parity laws, which legally require insurance plans to provide substance use and mental health benefits as if they were any other medical condition.

Are state and federal governments doing enough to combat opioid use disorders?

In response to the growing epidemic, in March 2015, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced that several targeted state and federal initiatives would aim to combat opioid and heroin use disorders, overdoses and deaths across the country, including a $133 million expansion of the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

In addition to changing opioid prescribing practices, the HHS Opioid Initiative specifically aims to expand medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and naloxone availability to reduce dependence and overdose. Recently, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved an implantable version of a drug called Probuphine to help combat the opioid epidemic by increasing patient compliance and minimizing abuse associated with other routes of administration.

As part of the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, participants were also asked about their views on the expansion of naloxone to prevent death due to an opioid or heroin overdose. Thirty-six percent of Americans believed that naloxone should be available without a doctor’s prescription to prevent people from dying due to an opioid overdose. Despite these new initiatives, more than 60 percent of Americans believe that the state and federal governments are not doing enough to fight opioid use disorders, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

Sovereign Health provides comprehensive behavioral health treatment services to patients with substance use disorders, including opioid dependence, mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders. To find out more about the treatment programs offered at Sovereign Health, please contact our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our team.

About the author

Amanda Habermann is a writer for Sovereign Health. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. She brings to the team her background in research, testing and assessment, diagnosis and recovery techniques. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at