Americans consider addiction a greater problem than chronic pain, poll shows

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A majority of Americans say chronic pain ranks far below drug addiction as a major health problem, according to a new poll.

The 1,016-person poll, commissioned by Research!America and conducted online by Zogby Analytics, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, found that 18% of respondents said chronic pain was a major health problem, while 50% say the same about addiction. At the same time, 63% said they knew someone who sought prescription drugs to treat pain due to its severity, while 82% said taking prescription painkillers long-term could result in addiction, and 85% expressed concern that prescription pain drugs could be abused or misused. About 1.9 million people in the United States are addicted to prescription painkillers, according to the National Institutes of Health, and unintentional deaths from overdoses on the drugs have quadrupled over the past 14 years, outnumbering those from heroin and cocaine combined.

"We need to better understand addiction," Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley said. "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 healthcare providers are essential to developing effective strategies to reduce the prevalence of addiction."

Other findings in the poll included 66% of respondents saying they were unaware of tamper- and abuse-resistant formulations for some prescription painkillers, while 60% said chronic pain tends to be dismissed by doctors and the public. Fifty-four percent say doctors don't discuss the possibility of addiction or dependence enough with their patients, and 52% would support limits on the amount and dosage of pain drugs doctors can prescribe.