Two-thirds of Americans have been affected by addiction, according to a poll.

Two-thirds of Americans have been affected by addiction, according to a poll.

The Hidden Reality of Addiction: A Crisis Impacting Millions of American Families


Millions of Americans are grappling with addiction, either personally or through a family member or friend. A recent poll conducted by KFF (formerly known as Kaiser Family Foundation) reveals the shocking reality of addiction’s far-reaching impact. Two-thirds of respondents reported experiences related to addiction, including personal addictions, homelessness due to addiction, overdoses, or deaths from drug use. This reveals a critical issue that goes beyond isolated incidents and infiltrates a majority of American families.

Ashley Kirzinger, Director of Survey Methodology at KFF, expresses surprise at the pervasiveness of addiction and its consequences. The poll indicates that addiction affects individuals across different demographics, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, household income, or geographic location. Even people living in rural areas and white adults experience addiction at alarming rates. However, despite the widespread prevalence of addiction, many affected individuals do not receive the necessary help. Only 46% of those with addiction in their families reported that the person received treatment. The statistics vary across racial and ethnic groups, with 51% of white adults receiving treatment, compared to only 35% of Black and Hispanic adults.

The impact of addiction extends beyond substance abuse, impacting various aspects of individuals’ lives, as confirmed by the poll respondents. Families affected by addiction reported damaged relationships, compromised mental health, and financial strain. Moreover, there is a constant fear among these families that their loved ones may overdose or unintentionally consume dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

Though the situation seems dire, there are also positive outcomes highlighted in the poll. A significant number of respondents reported that their doctors discussed the dangers of prescription opioids and addiction, indicating increased awareness in the medical community. Doctors also demonstrated a greater willingness to offer alternative medications for pain management. Both Democrats and Republicans expressed support for addiction treatment centers in their communities and the availability of Narcan (naloxone), a drug that can reverse opioid overdose, for free at bars, health clinics, and fire stations.

Robyn Oster, Senior Research Associate of Health Law and Policy at the Partnership to End Addiction, remarks that the poll findings are not surprising considering the magnitude of the addiction crisis. Overdose deaths are predicted to exceed 110,000 in 2022, with more than 46 million people reporting substance use disorder in 2021. The combination of pervasive stigma and underinvestment has resulted in limited access to essential services for those affected by addiction.

Prescription painkillers are identified as a significant driver of the opioid epidemic. Research shows that a substantial number of individuals who use heroin initially misused prescription opioids. As access to prescription medications became restricted, people turned to heroin and other illicit drugs, with fentanyl emerging as a particularly lethal substitute. Disturbingly, almost half of the people who misused prescription pain relievers obtained them from friends or relatives, either by sharing or taking them without permission.

There is a critical shortage of resources to support those affected by addiction. The lack of adequate care and limited availability of quality treatment contribute to the ongoing crisis. Existing services, such as treatment and harm reduction strategies, are not as easily accessible or comprehensive as needed. Oster emphasizes the underinvestment and separation of addiction services from the traditional healthcare system. Additionally, addiction services are often expensive since many insurers do not adequately cover them. Moreover, there is a notable lack of support services for families impacted by addiction, despite the significant toll it takes on their mental health, relationships, and finances. Expanding access to quality treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services is crucial in addressing this crisis effectively.

In conclusion, the KFF poll sheds light on the hidden reality of addiction, impacting countless American families. The pervasive nature of addiction calls for immediate attention and action. It demands a collaborative effort from healthcare providers, policymakers, and society as a whole. By increasing access to comprehensive addiction services, spreading awareness, and countering stigma, we can begin to address this crisis and support those who need it most.

Sources: – Ashley Kirzinger, PhD, Director, Survey Methodology, KFF – Robyn Oster, Senior Research Associate, Health Law and Policy, Partnership to End Addiction – KFF poll, Aug. 15, 2023


SLIDESHOW: Prescription Drug Abuse: Addiction, Health Risks, and Treatments