Facing the Pain in Fear of Addiction

Pain medication misuse and abuse concerned high percentage of Americans

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In the United States, there is a common fear that taking pain medications for a long period of time could lead to addiction. And this fear may extend beyond those taking medications for chronic pain.

More than 80 percent of Americans believed that taking painkillers long-term could lead to addiction, according to a recently published poll. At the same time, about two-thirds of Americans know someone in chronic pain.

The findings illustrate the need to better understand addiction and improve strategies to reduce the number of people addicted to certain medicines, according to researchers.

"Fear not - take medication as prescribed."

The poll, conducted by Research!America, a not-for-profit education and advocacy alliance aiming to improve health, included more than 1,000 individuals across the US.

A quarter of those surveyed said that addiction to medications and medication abuse were not major problems in their community and less than a third had unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions in their homes.

Almost two-thirds of the participants reported that they knew someone who experienced pain so severe that they sought prescription medications to treat the pain.

Yet more than eight out of 10 individuals felt that addictions could result from taking prescription painkillers long-term, and 85 percent said they were concerned about misusing the medications.

Specifically, 42 percent were very concerned and another 43 percent were somewhat concerned with abusing or misusing pain meds.

About 60 percent of consumers reported they felt doctors and the public dismissed discussing chronic pain, whereas 16 percent felt chronic pain was overstated as a health condition.

The majority of patients felt that doctors do not discuss the possibility of developing an addiction enough with their patients. Only 21 percent felt that doctors satisfactorily discussed the risk of addiction with patients and 7 percent said their doctors discussed it too much.

About a third of those surveyed felt that medical researchers, elected officials and the media covered drug addiction and chronic pain adequately, but between 10 and 20 percent felt that the two topics needed to be discussed more.

Only 4 percent felt that prescription drug abuse should be dealt with by law enforcement. Instead, more Americans (27 percent) believed that a combination of organizations and individuals themselves should be responsible for addressing drug abuse problems.

Physical therapy also topped the list of alternative methods to treating chronic pain, followed by over-the-counter medicines and diet or lifestyle changes.

The survey was conducted March 2013 by Zogby Analytics for Research!America. The alliance has been commissioning polls since 1992 to understand public support for health, medical and scientific research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 10, 2013
Last Updated:
January 20, 2014