New Jerseyans agree: Opioid problem is serious

Mostly all of New Jersey residents believe the opioid epidemic is a problem, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Wednesday.

The poll found 73 percent of New Jerseyans said that opioid addiction is a “very” serious problem, and 21 percent believe it is a “somewhat” serious problem. Just 3 percent polled said it is “not very” serious, and 1 percent said it is “not a problem at all.”

A majority of those polled said opioid addiction is a problem in their own community, although when compared to the entire state it’s at a much lesser extent.

About seven in 10 polled said opioid addiction is a serious problem in their community (41 percent “very”, 30 percent “somewhat”); 11 percent said it is “not a very serious” issue for their community, and 7 percent don’t see it as a problem.

When asked who should be held responsible for the opioid problem, just over half say either the doctors who prescribed painkillers (27 percent) or the pharmaceutical companies that sell them (26 percent). One in five said the people who take the prescription painkillers are to blame (22 percent) or say it is a combination of all the above (18 percent).

To solve the problem, New Jerseyans believe limiting prescriptions of opioids (32 percent) and education (32 percent) are the two most effective ways to stop the epidemic.

“New Jerseyans across the board hold doctors and pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid epidemic and also believe these same people are the key to ending it through limiting prescriptions,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Yet expanding treatment options – a priority for the current administration and legislature – does not seem to be on residents’ radar.”

Is the epidemic on residents radar?

Half said they are paying “a lot” of attention to the issue and another quarter said they are paying “some” attention. Just under a quarter said they are paying “little” attention (15 percent) or “none” (8 percent).

In terms of understanding addiction, a large majority of residents said they at least know something about how people get addicted to opioids (49 percent know “a lot”, 26 percent said “some”) and what causes opioid addiction (42 percent know “a lot”, 29 percent said “some”).

“These findings suggest that an increasing number of individuals in the state are educated about the risks and causes of opioid addiction,” said Itzhak Yanovitzky, associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information and the co-lead of the study. “At the same time, the findings point to a persistent gap in what people know about available treatment options and what is being done in their community to address this epidemic. These are topics that public education efforts ought to target moving forward.”

Poll results are statewide of 704 adults contacted by live callers from April 26 to May 4. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percentage points.