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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Two Thirds Say They or Family Affected by Substance Use

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

About half of the public say they shopped for medical care because of the coronavirus.

Two thirds of Americans responding to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll said that either they or a family member has been addicted to alcohol or drugs, experienced homelessness due to addiction, or experienced a drug overdose leading to an emergency room visit, hospitalization, or death.

Alcohol is still the substance misused most often, with more than half of adults (54%) responding to the online and telephone survey stating that someone in their family has ever been addicted to alcohol.

About a quarter said they or a family member had been addicted to any illegal drug, and another quarter said they or a family member was addicted to prescription painkillers.

Almost a fifth of adults (18%) reported that they had (a) personally been addicted to drugs or alcohol, (b) had a drug overdose requiring an ER visit or hospitalization, or (c) had experienced homelessness because of addiction.

The substance misuse affects all income levels, almost equally. For adults with a household income of less than $40,000 a year, some 25% said they had been addicted. That compares to 18% of those with an income of $40,000-to-$90,000 annually, and 16% of those who make $90,000 or more a year.

White Americans reported more addiction and overdose; the difference is driven largely by alcohol and prescription painkiller addiction, the Kaiser poll found.

Sixty percent of White adults, compared with 50% of Black and 47% of Hispanic adults, said someone in their family had been addicted to alcohol. For prescription opioids, 28% of White adults, 18% of Black adults and 20% of Hispanic adults reported addiction in their family.

Substance Use

number of colorful medicines on black background

Opioid addiction was especially high among White adults and rural adults, with 42% of those in rural areas reporting they or a family member was addicted to opioids, compared with 30% of suburban residents and 23% of urban residents.

Substance use disorders have a big impact on families and mental health, Kaiser reported. Among those who have an addiction or a family member with addiction, 75% said the disorder had an impact on their relationship with their family.

At least half of adults are worried that someone in their family will experience a substance use disorder, with 39% worried that someone in their family might unintentionally consume fentanyl.

About half of the public say they shopped for medical care because of the coronavirus.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic.

Almost two thirds of adults said they were "very" or "somewhat worried" that someone in their family will experience a serious mental health crisis. Thirty-six percent said they were worried someone in their family will attempt suicide.

Concerns about homelessness were highest among Hispanic adults, with 75% saying they were worried about a family member becoming homeless, compared with 60% of Black adults, and 23% of White adults. These worries were highest among those with incomes of less than $40,000 a year.

Few Receiving Treatment

Only about 46% of adults reporting personal or family addiction said that they or their family member had received treatment. White adults (51%) were more likely to have received treatment; slightly more than a third of Black and Hispanic adults reported they or a family member had been treated.

Poll respondents cited multiple barriers to treatment, including that the person did not want or refused help; stopped on their own; denied that they had an addiction; could not afford care; or felt shame or stigma. Some reported that a family member died before they could get help.

Kaiser included some of what respondents said in their own words. "We are not raised that way," said a 22-year-old Black woman from Georgia.

"Brother quit on his own and been sober for 2 years; my dad was addicted to cocaine [and] quit on his own," said a 37-year-old Hispanic man from Texas.

Only a quarter of people said they or a family member received medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

People reported an openness to having addiction treatment centers in their community, with 91% expressing support. A large majority also supported making naloxone (Narcan) freely available in places like bars, health clinics, and fire stations.

Democrats (61%) strongly or somewhat supported the establishment of safe consumption sites, while Independents (49%) were less supportive; just 23% of Republicans were supportive.

The Kaiser survey was conducted July 11-19 among a nationally representative sample of 1327 US adults in English (1246) and in Spanish (81). The majority were part of a probability-based panel where panel members are recruited randomly. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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