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Polls Show Americans Understand the Opioid Crisis but Blame People with Addiction

There is good news and bad news in poll findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post’s investigation into the public opinion of the use of prescription opioids (“Public opinion on the use and abuse of prescription opioids,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation). But there is also ample opportunity to make a difference.

The good news is people are paying attention. More than half of the public is closely following news about the prescription opioid epidemic in the U.S. Two thirds of Americans say that prescription opioid use is a very serious problem, and a significant majority – 85 percent – believe that increasing access to addiction treatment programs would be an effective response.

The bad news is more than two-third of respondents blame people who use painkillers for the epidemic – second only to doctors who prescribe prescription opioids. This squares with research which shows that even though Americans increasingly accept mental illnesses and substance use disorders as treatable medical disorders, stigma is alive and well. Over the past decade, Americans have become more likely to think that an individual with a substance use disorder is “weak willed” and that a person with a mental illness will become violent.

And the scope of the opioid epidemic hits close to home. Forty-four percent of Americans know someone who’s been addicted to prescription painkillers, and one-fifth of those say a close friend or family member has been affected. One in five Americans knows someone who has died from an overdose.

Imagine if we had a way to reach our friends, family members and acquaintances who are living with a mental health or substance use problem. Imagine if we could help dispel negative stereotypes about mental illnesses and substance use disorders and encourage help seeking. That’s exactly what Mental Health First Aid does. This evidence-based course teaches participants to #BeTheDifference for someone they know or love, offering support, tangible resources and referrals for professional help, if needed.

Another tidbit of good news? We don’t have to wait another minute to help. Become a Mental Health First Aider today!

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