Aug 15, 2023 - Health

Most U.S. adults have a family or personal connection to addiction: poll

The impact of addiction on family, mental health and finances
Reproduced from KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Addiction is affecting the family relationships, mental health and finances of most adults in the U.S., according to a new KFF poll.

Why it matters: The findings are the latest to reveal how the worsening substance use crisis is weighing on people's lives, regardless of whether they're personally experiencing addiction.

  • More than a quarter (27%) of respondents who have had a relative with an alcohol or drug addiction, but have not experienced addiction themselves, say their mental health was significantly altered as a result.

Driving the news: The health tracking poll — published Tuesday and conducted in mid-July — found 66% of American adults have a personal or familial experience with alcohol or drug addiction.

  • That includes homelessness due to addiction or a drug overdose that resulted in an emergency room visit, hospitalization or death.
  • The connection to addiction, however, was more likely to be through a family member than personal.

By the numbers: Half (51%) of adults are also worried that someone in their family will experience substance use disorder or addiction to drugs or alcohol.

  • Nearly one-third (32%) are concerned that someone in their family will overdose on opioids, and about 40% are concerned about a family member unintentionally consuming fentanyl.
  • About 3 in 10 (29%) say they or someone in their family has been addicted to opioids, including prescription painkillers and illegal substances like heroin. It most commonly affects rural residents and white adults.
  • Less than half (46%) of those saying they or a family member experienced addiction to prescription painkillers, alcohol, or any illegal drug report they got treatment.
  • That tracks with past evidence that treatment is not always reaching those who need it.

Between the lines: The fear of a family member having a serious mental health crisis or a substance use disorder was most prevalent among those with incomes of less than $40,000 per year.

  • Almost all support addiction treatment centers in their community (90%) and making the opioid reversal drug Narcan available for free in bars, health clinics and fire stations.
  • Nearly half (45%), back safe consumption sites where people can use illegal drugs with trained personnel in case of an emergency.
  • The poll surveyed 1,327 U.S. adults from July 11-19.

What we're watching: Whether Congress designates new funding for family support services in a spending package.

  • Bipartisan legislation revived in June would allocate $25 million over five years to nonprofits providing support services to families.
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