News: Quick Takes

One in three North Carolinians affected by opioid crisis, poll finds

The opioid crisis has touched one in three North Carolinians, a recently released Elon University poll says.  

“Our data clearly show that North Carolina voters see opioid abuse as a significant issue worthy of attention,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and assistant professor of political science.

When asked whether they or someone close to them have been affected by opioid addiction, 67 percent of respondents answered no. Thirty-one percent of respondents said yes, and 2 percent said they are unsure.

According to the poll, the abuse of prescription pain pills is seen as a greater issue compared to the abuse of street drugs. An overwhelming 59 percent say prescription pain pills are a larger problem than the 26 percent who point fingers at street drugs such as heroin. Men — at 65 percent — are more likely to say the abuse of pain pills is the bigger problem, compared to 55 percent of women polled.

The poll shows some variation in age and racial groups. Forty-three percent of younger respondents were more likely to say they have been personally affected, compared to just 18 percent of residents 73 or older. More white residents — 36 percent — said they’ve been affected by opioid addiction, versus 17 percent of black residents.

“The groups most likely to say they have been personally impacted by opioid addiction are whites, men, Millennials, and those from suburban counties,” Husser said. “This largely tracks overdose statistics in North Carolina and in the nation as a whole.”

A majority of respondents think too little is being done to address the problem. Forty-five percent say the issue isn’t getting enough attention, and 39 percent say it’s getting the right amount of attention. Eleven percent said opioid addiction is getting too much attention.

About 42 percent say their community doesn’t have the resources to respond to the problem, and about 28 percent say they their communities do. Twenty-nine percent are unsure.

Most of the questions yielded no major political splits, except on whether the health-care system or criminal justice system offers the best means of addressing the opioid crisis. Republicans were more likely to favor the criminal justice system. Democrats and Independents said the health-care system is superior. Overall, 56 percent of respondents favored the health-care system, compared to 21 percent favoring the criminal justice system.

The university surveyed 771 registered N.C. voters Nov. 6-9, using either a landline or cell phone to reach respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.