Americans Believe Opioid Producers Should Be Held Accountable, Pay for Treatment

Ipsos poll on behalf of NPR

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Emily Chen Research Analyst, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, April 25, 2019 – As opioid-related news continues to surface, with increasing attention toward the pharmaceutical industry as a player in the crisis, Ipsos, on behalf of NPR, takes a closer look at knowledge and understanding of the issue. The study finds that most Americans are aware of the issue of opioid misuse (68%), and one in three have been personally affected in some way, either by knowing someone who has overdosed or knowing someone with an addiction (35%). Specifically, 30% know someone with an addiction and 23% know someone who has overdosed. Though aware of the issue more broadly, less than half of all Americans (42%) are confident that they would be able to recognize if someone were experiencing an opioid overdose.

As the debate on whether large pharmaceutical companies should be held liable for making the opioid epidemic worse continues, Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the idea of having those producing opioids play a role in supporting prevention and treatment of overdoses, and a majority (56%) say these companies should be held responsible for making opioid abuse worse. Three-fourths support having pharmaceutical companies producing opioids fund treatment for opioid addiction or abuse (73%) or fund plans to distribute naloxone kits (72%). People are also supportive of greater transparency, with seven in ten saying pharmaceutical companies should be forced to publicly disclose information that might have come out at trial, even if they pay to settle lawsuits over opioid abuse.

Overall, there is widespread support for government to do more to restrict opioid distribution (71%). Many believe that increasing distribution and availability of naloxone, a medication which rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, will help combat opioid overdose deaths (66%). Although a majority are unaware that a prescription is not needed to obtain the medication (56%), most report they are comfortable using a naloxone spray on the individual overdosing (57%), or using a device like an EpiPen to inject the individual overdosing with naloxone (57%). The vast majority of Americans believe that paramedics/emergency medical technicians (89%), police officers (82%), and school nurses (82%) should always carry naloxone. Support among residents in the Washington DC metro (DMV) area is greater for all these types of people. In terms of where naloxone should be available or distributed, Americans support having it available in colleges (67%), community needle exchange programs (67%), and K-12 schools (56%). Support for having the medication available in community needle exchange programs (77%) and colleges (76%), in particular, is significantly higher among DMV residents. However, most Americans say that wider distribution should be accompanied by publicly available safety and training resources (80%) and only be available to emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, and other trained professionals (62%).

The survey also looks at general understanding of Good Samaritan laws, which protect bystanders from liability if unintended consequences arise from assisting a person who is injured or in danger, such as in the case of a drug overdose. In the DMV area, awareness and understanding of protections is generally low. Most do not know that a person under 21seeking emergency medical services for someone during an overdose will not be charged if they are found with alcohol (28% answer the true/false question incorrectly, and 46% are unsure) or that a person seeking medical services for a minor experiencing an overdose will not be charged if they are found providing alcohol or drugs to the minor (42% answer incorrectly, and 41% are unsure).

Though attitudes toward Good Samaritan laws are generally positive, with most people agreeing that they ensure bystanders are willing to call for help (77%) or administer naloxone (65%) in the event of an overdose, there are qualms about their impact on criminal behavior. A third of Americans believe that Good Samaritan laws could encourage criminal behavior by taking away legal consequences (32%), and a fifth say they are morally wrong because they give a free pass to criminal behavior (22%).

About the Study

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted April 12-17, 2019 on behalf of NPR. For the survey, a sample of 1,510 adults 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii, and an oversample in the Washington, DC-Maryland-Virginia area, were interviewed online in English. Where the total is referenced, that number (n=1,015) reflects the nationally representative sample, including our D.C.-area interviews weighted down to their correct proportion within the national population, based on Census estimates. 

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,015, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-5.0 percentage points). 

The poll also has a credibility interval plus or minus 5.0 percentage points for residents of the DMV area.

For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can  download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 89 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,749.5 million in 2018.

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The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Emily Chen Research Analyst, US, Public Affairs

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