Majority of Americans are feeling the impact of the substance abuse crisis, survey shows

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A majority of adults are feeling the impacts of a substance abuse crisis in the country, according to a new survey released by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) researchers. 

With overdose deaths surging across the U.S. and in Travis County, two-thirds of adults surveyed said that they or a family member have at one point been addicted to alcohol or drugs, become homeless because of an addiction or went to the emergency room, were hospitalized or died because of substance abuse, the survey found. Further, about three in ten adults say they or a family member have been addicted to opioids – legal or illegal – at some point. 

Just over 1,300 adults were contacted online via telephone for the survey. 

Of the respondents who endorsed an addiction of any sort, less than half said they or their relative got treatment. 

The KFF researchers said experiences with addiction are widespread and affect people across income groups, education levels, race, ethnicity, age and whether they live in an urban or rural setting. Though no group is unspared, the proportion of people affected jumps up a few percentage points for those living with an annual household income of under $40,000, according to the survey. 

The survey team found white adults are more likely than Black and Hispanic adults to report themselves or a relative to have at one point experienced an addiction– they said this difference is driven by more White families using alcohol and prescription painkillers. 

The results indicated that white adults were more likely to receive help with addiction than Black and Hispanic adults. KFF researchers have found previously that there are racial and ethnic disparities in accessing treatment, and that these may be exacerbated by the evolving opioid pandemic, which has been increasing in prevalence in communities of color. 

“Those who say they or their family member experienced addiction and didn’t receive treatment cite a variety of reasons, including not wanting help or refusing help, overcoming or stopping their addiction on their own, denial that they have an addiction, the cost or affordability associated with care, the shame or stigma, or even that a family member died before they could get help,” the researchers wrote.

KFF staff asked those surveyed about policies aiming to reduce drug overdoses and 90% of respondents indicated they support addiction treatment centers in their communities and making Narcan – a prescription drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose – readily available in places like bars, clinics and fire stations.

Earlier in August, the Travis County commissioners court approved the allocation of $860,000 to assist with opioid overdose prevention and mitigation resources.

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