May 26, 2019 | 78° F

Eagleton poll cites New Jersey residents feel uninformed about painkiller risks

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The poll was conducted statewide and includes responses from approximately 800 New Jersey adults about the opioid crisis.

Two recent polls found that a majority of New Jersey residents who were prescribed painkillers do not recall having their risks explained and feel the opioid epidemic is a serious problem.

Over the summer, the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling conducted a poll that indicated 7 out of 10 people believe opioid abuse is a problem in their communities, and more than 50 percent of New Jersey residents blame either doctors or pharmaceutical companies for the opioid epidemic. 

When it comes to their own communities, residents believe the problem is slightly less serious than it is in the state, said Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

The polls found that 73 percent of participants said the opioid crisis is a “very” serious problem, 21 percent said it was at least “somewhat” of a serious problem and less than 5 percent said it is “not very” serious and “not a problem at all.”

The poll was conducted statewide and tested approximately 800 adults representative of New Jersey’s population. It included a variety of participants, such as chronic abusers and family members or friends of opioid abusers.

“I would say this is probably an instance of 'anywhere but here,' where respondents, individuals will always see what's closest to them differently than maybe they would see other things that are not as close to them or not as tangible,” Koning said.

The second poll found that approximately half of all the state’s residents said either they or a family member were prescribed opioids within the last 12 months, and although many said they were told why by medical professionals, a large proportion said they were not informed of the dangerous effects or alternatives to these medications.

Emilie Mankopf, a project coordinator at the Center for Prevention Science and a doctoral student in the School of Social Work, has worked on evaluating the effectiveness of a federal program that expands access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse. 

She said there are a lot of opportunities to help individuals struggling with substance abuse both on the federal and local level.

“When we asked those who say they or a family member have been prescribed (opioids) in the past year, we asked them what was discussed with the doctor at the time of the prescription,” Koning said. “The reason for the prescription being given was discussed with almost everybody, but far fewer recall their doctor or dentist explaining either the dangers of taking prescription painkillers with alcohol and antidepressants, the risk of overdose or alternative treatments available.”

Andrew Petryna

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