MOST AMERICANS THINK THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD HAS A SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEM, BUT IT’S NOT THE DRUG YOU THINK

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By: Ed Cara

Original Source: www.medicaldaily.com

 

A new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and released Monday may provide us with the most up-to-date look into how Americans feel about drug use. And the bogeymen that top our list of feared drugs may not be the ones you’d typically expect.

According to the poll, which surveyed 1,042 adults across the country, 62 percent of Americans agreed that substance use was a significant problem in their community. The two most-feared substances, however, turned out to be legal and readily available — alcohol and prescription painkillers. While 67 percent of those polled believed painkiller abuse was at least a moderately serious problem, 76 percent thought the same of alcohol. These concerns were likely at least partly motivated by respondents’ own personal experiences, since about four in 10 people admitted to knowing a close friend or family member with a substance use problem.

Though the findings are especially timely in light of recent attempts by public health organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration to tamp down the widespread overprescription of opioids by doctors, relatively few survey takers, 21 percent, said that all or most doctors regularly prescribe more than is necessary. However, 89 percent of those who agreed that at least some doctors over-prescribe also believed overprescription was a major contributor to drug dependence and overdoses.

Regardless of the drug, 68 percent said more should be done to find better ways to treat addiction in their neighborhoods, while 69 percent said that current addiction programs should be made more accessible. A majority of people wanted to see more efforts targeted directly at drug dealers, greater education for the public, and more direct action taken by community members themselves.

Interestingly enough, while legal drugs remained the biggest worry on people’s minds, 61 percent of respondents were okay with the prospect of marijuana legalization, though 43 percent pushed for a limit on purchase amounts and 24 percent said all pot should require a prescription.

Perhaps most heartening, it seems Americans are becoming more aware of the long-known disparities in convictions for drug use. Though rates of illicit drug use are roughly equal for all racial groups at around 10 percent, research has repeatedly shown that blacks and other minorities are more likely to be arrested for possession and face harsher sentences than whites. And indeed, 66 percent of the current poll believed it was at least very likely that a black substance user would be convicted of possession, compared to 30 percent who said the same of white users. Respondents also felt that poor users were more likely to get convicted than middle class and rich users.

If nothing else, the findings seem to indicate that substance use is increasingly seen as a societal problem that can’t be fixed by wholly relying on incarceration. “To lock someone up for using, it’s not going to solve anything. They’re going to rebel,” Sharon Johnson, a poll respondent and now-sober former substance user, told the AP. “For dealers, in my eyes, they should be locked up.”

Last November, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published a report that found that about 10 percent of Americans had suffered from a drug-use disorder in their lifetime, and 3.9 percent had in the past 12 months.

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