NSC Survey: Nearly Half of Americans Using Opioid Painkillers Unaware

Drug overdoses, largely from opioid painkillers, are a leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for American adults. This "epidemic" is a primary focus of National Safety Month, according to the council.

The National Safety Council said according to a survey it conducted, 45 percent of Americans who use opioid prescription painkillers do not realize they are taking an opioid or that the drug is as addictive as heroin. Opioid painkillers and heroin have nearly identical chemical makeups and produce the same effects, according to the council.

Drug overdoses, largely from opioid painkillers, are a leading cause of unintentional injury death for American adults. This "epidemic" is a primary focus of National Safety Month, observed each June.

"Americans should not be fooled: an opioid painkiller is the equivalent of legal heroin," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "The drugs in our medicine cabinets can be just as addictive as illicit ones."

Other findings in the survey included that nearly 9 in 10 opioid painkiller users are not concerned about addiction, despite 67 percent saying they believe the drugs are more addictive than other types of prescriptions. And it indicated many people are not familiar with formulary names. Just 29 percent of survey respondents said they had taken an opioid painkiller but that increased to 42 percent when they saw common opioid brand names such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin.

For more information about opioid painkiller abuse, visit nsc.org/rxpainkillers.

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