Nearly half of all Americans have used a narcotic pain killer, according to a new Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll.
The survey, which asked people about their opinions and use of narcotic pain killers, found that 49.7 percent have used Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin or morphine. More than three-quarters believe narcotic pain killers are linked to drug addiction, and nearly a third questioned or refused their doctor’s recommendation to take the drugs.
“With such a significant number of responders having been prescribed a narcotic pain killer, our results suggest that these drugs are relatively easy to access despite the need for a physician’s prescription,” said Raymond Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer at Thomson Reuters. “It’s encouraging to see a healthy understanding of the addictive properties of narcotics, but refusing to use them when they can be helpful may cause people to experience unnecessary pain.”
Narcotic painkillers are among the most commonly used drugs in the U.S., with more than 244 million prescriptions in 2010. The drugs can help ease the pain of millions of people each year, but some doctors have questioned their use to treat chronic pain, citing a lack of evidence and serious problems with misuse.
Other findings in the survey:
• Among those who have used a painkiller, 31% said they were prescribed to treat chronic pain.
• Americans over the age of 65 were less likely to be prescribed a pain killer (37.5%) than those aged 35-64 (52.3%) or under 35 (54.2%).
• Americans with a high school education were less likely to be prescribed a pain killer (38.6%) than those with a college degree (52.4%).
• Those who have not used pain killers cited fear of addiction as their primary concern (38%), followed by association with drug abuse (24.8%), and side effects (20.4%).
Thomson Reuters and NPR conduct the monthly poll to gauge attitudes and opinions on a wide range of health issues. 3,000 Americans were surveyed in the telephone poll conducted during the first half of October.