Pain may be the number one reason people see their doctors, but according to a national opinion poll, only 18 percent of Americans believe chronic pain is a major health problem. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, drug addiction, depression, alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease all ranked higher as health problems in the survey commissioned by Research!America.
Chronic pain – generally defined as pain that lasts for more than six months — affects about 100 million Americans and costs $600 billion annually in healthcare and lost productivity.
While pain ranks low compared to other health problems, the survey found that nearly two out of three Americans (63%) know someone who experienced pain so severe they sought prescription drugs to treat it.
Most Americans are also concerned about the misuse of pain medications. A high percentage (82%) believe that taking prescription painkillers long term could result in addiction and an even larger number (85%) are very concerned or somewhat concerned that pain medication can be abused or misused.
About 40% say painkiller misuse and addiction is a “major problem” in their community.
“We need to better understand addiction,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “We shouldn’t shy away from research on new pain treatments based on fears of abuse. The suffering is simply too great. More robust investment in research and the engagement and support of policy makers and health care providers are essential to developing effective strategies to reduce the prevalence of addiction.”
Over half of those surveyed (54%) believe doctors don’t spend enough time discussing with patients the risk of addiction to prescription painkillers. A similar number (52%) believe doctors should have limits on the amount and dosage of pain medication they are allowed to prescribe.
Other poll highlights:
- 60% say chronic pain tends to be dismissed by doctors and the public.
- 39% believe chronic pain should get more attention from the media.
- 31% say media coverage of chronic pain is “about right.”
- Only 4% believe it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to address the prescription drug abuse problem.
When asked how they would treat their own chronic pain, nearly two out of three (64%) said they would use physical therapy; followed by over-the-counter pain medication (55%), diet or lifestyle change (54%), chiropractor (49%), prescription painkillers (47%), herbal remedies (38%), and acupuncture (36%).
The national public opinion poll of 1,016 American adults was conducted online in March 2013 by Zogby Analytics for Research!America.