WBUR Poll: Opiate Abuse A Major Issue In Mass.

BOSTON — Even though public health and public safety officials in Massachusetts are having trouble quantifying the extent of the state’s opiate abuse problem, most voters consider it a major issue. That’s one finding of a new WBUR poll.

In this 2012 file photo, a tube of Naloxone Hydrochloride, also known as Narcan, is held up. Narcan is a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose. (Charles Krupa/AP)

In this 2012 file photo, a tube of Naloxone Hydrochloride, also known as Narcan, is held up. Narcan is a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Fifty-two percent of the 504 likely voters surveyed for the poll categorize the abuse of heroin or prescription painkillers as a “major problem.” And another 31 percent consider it an even bigger problem — a “crisis.”

Few voters find abuse of these drugs to be of little concern. Twelve percent categorize it as a “minor problem,” while 2 percent say it’s “not really a problem.”

More people in southeastern Massachusetts think opiate abuse is “a crisis” — 38 percent, compared to 31 percent statewide.

Possibly influencing the numbers are voters’ personal connections with drug abuse. A full 37 percent of those surveyed say they’ve known someone who has struggled with an opiate addiction  TWEET in the last year.

The number is higher among the young. Fifty-seven percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they know someone who has struggled with an opiate addiction in the last year.

Despite their concern about opiates, nearly half the voters surveyed favor softening a drug law of another sort. Forty-nine percent say the use of marijuana should be made legal in Massachusetts. That’s similar support to the last WBUR poll, in March.

The telephone poll was conducted Friday through Sunday for WBUR by the MassINC Polling Group. It has a 4.4 percent margin of error.

More poll results — on casinos and the governor’s race — will be unveiled Wednesday and Thursday. The full topline and crosstab results will be published with those reports.

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  • Wyrdless

    Typically in polls like this they will ask “has anyone you know used opiates in the past year” Then the media will always assume that anyone using opiates recreationally is ‘struggling’ with it.

    This is just another drug scare piece in the same vein as reefer maddness, crack babies, the “crystal” meth epidemic and all the other basically fake drug crises. Drug use has actually been stable for about a hundred years now since meth was invented and sold over the counter.

    Of course what isn’t mentioned in this article and almost NEVER mentioned in the media is how approximately 15% of school age boys are currently prescribed a meth agonist. Those kids will then bother their doctors for more so they can sell them to their classmates.

    An extra $150 a month from selling Ritalin is a small fortune to a high school student or college freshman

    in 1900, when morphine was over the counter, it is estimated that 2% of the population were drug addicts

    In 2010 after spending trillion on the war on drugs, and having 3% of the population in jail, probation, parole or in court the addiction rate is ….. 2%

    • X-Ray

      One wonders what the addition rate would be if the anti-drug efforts had not been done; even higher?

      • Wyrdless

        ::: face palm:::

        There already was a time when drugs were 100% legal over the counter and there was no anti-drug effort. There is no need for speculation. The answer is 2%.

  • Mark Hammel

    Although free markets may be unpredictable, liberty’s fleeting uncertainty is a small price to pay for freedom from the savage barbarism unleashed by collectivist systems of thought.

    • Joan

      Could you de-construct your comment for me?

      • X-Ray

        Newspeak isn’t worth it.

  • Lawrence

    So that’s the answer. Make more drugs legal and more widely available.

    Get a clue. Drugs are harmful to an enormous segment of the population and should be banned. Yes, Marijuana too.

    • Steve Woodman

      Do you really think that drugs aren’t already widely available?

      One serious problem is the fact that from the perspective of say a kid in high school, the one drug that they’d really like to get their hands on that ISN’T available is alcohol. What they can get their hands on are opiates. Obviously pot is there too, but it’s tricky because it’s smelly. Popping a vicodin, however, is easy to do anywhere and doesn’t have many visible symptoms. Many teens are getting hooked early on as a result and quickly move on to heroin.

      Another problem with an outright ban is that people get arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Addicts shouldn’t be treated as criminals. It does nobody any good to put them in prison. Do you realize how much it costs society as a whole to keep these people locked up in jail? If those resources were put towards helping them, they could be paying taxes instead of leeching off of them.

      There are more reasons…I’m sure you’ve heard them before though.

      Do you really think that the current approach is working? I agree that legalizing every narcotic is a scary thought in a way…but I think that starting with pot is a good way of testing the waters. We can see how the black market will react, how the legal market will handle it as well as the consumers.

      • Joan

        Thank you for your reply. However, there already is a middle ground concerning the prescribing of opioids. Manufacturers, who lined their pockets with huge sums of money by assuring prescribers that opioids were safe, did finally re-do the drug OxyContin. They made it tamper-proof. However, without the ability to get high, abusers turned to heroin, with devastating consequences.
        Then, legislators tightened rules about prescribing opioids. And herein lies the problem. Caregivers refuse to write for patients with real pain. That is because they do not want to check every person’s drug history, a prohibitively time consuming process. And, they do not want to jeopardize their licenses by prescribing too many opioids, even if those prescriptions are indicated and legal. I believe that it is patently unfair to deprive people adequate pain relief and the ability to function, simply because others abuse pain medications.
        The middle ground, to my mind, is to provide adequate treatment for addicts. Also, it would not hurt to repair societal issues that lead to addictions, such as inadequate supports of people struggling with mental health issues, poverty, etc. In that way,

        • Joan

          Continued: all could get what they need.

    • Mariamante

      What America isn’t understanding is that this is social engineering at it’s finest. Those who laundered money for the cartels, has been pushing drug legalization, including heroin since the 90’s.



      • Lawrence

        Social engineering. A good term that most of us don’t even know existed. Scarey!

  • Joan

    I heard hourly reports of this highly unscientific poll today on WBUR. Finally, reaching the point of agitation, I actually turned off the radio. It sickens me that the effectiveness in managing pain which opioids afford is never noted in all of the hysteria surrounding the misuse of opioids. Instead, public opinion is aligned with people who steal, sell and misuse these drugs to get high. When used under strict medical supervision, opioids are lifesavers to an entire population who use them properly, and rarely, if ever, become addicted to them. To deprive persons with acute and chronic pain the help they need to curtail their suffering is actually the worst crime of all.

    • Steve Woodman

      Tom Ashbrook actually covered it quite well maybe 4-5 months ago on On Point. It is a delicate issue because of course there are many people who genuinely need these drugs to get through in their daily life.

      I’m pretty positive there’s a middle ground. Perhaps what needs to be done is for New England to see what is happening differently here compared to other regions of the country.

      This issue of opiate abuse in New England is definitely real. According to the governor’s office opiate overdoses had risen 90 percent between 2000 and 2012 in MA. I personally know of three individuals who have died from opiate overdoses in the last 3-4 years and three more who are struggling with it. Being a college educated middle class guy, I don’t exactly fit the profile of someone who you’d think would associate with druggies. It’s just a fact that heroin and opiates are everywhere in New England.


      • Joan

        continued: maybe all could get what they need.

    • Mariamante

      i’m sorry for your pain. It doesn’t sicken you that children are being introduced to opiates by doctors? It doesn’t bother you that pure heroin is easier and cheaper to get than beer? It doesn’t bother you that government is almost certainly complicit? Lives are being lost and destroyed, mothers are crying, fathers are grieving, and everyone is hurt in one way or another. If you dont believe these ruthless sociopaths are going after your children, think again.

      Heroin is prescribed in pill form by doctors to children. There are addictive is available in lollipop form.

      Actiq®, The Sugar-Loaded Opiate Lollipop and the Risk for Tooth Decay

      Risk for “tooth decay” is the warning families are given.

      They are everywhere today and our government, doctors, and schools are the drug pushers. Many kids won’t stand a chance.

      • Joan

        I abhor such tragedies! (Please see my second post.) But please tell me how drug abuse, & ensuing laws to tighten use of opioids to people with pain, helps the tragedies on the streets abate? No, such laws punish those with pain without helping abusers. As I said, fight social ills like poverty and mental health issues and offer treatment to addicts-which pain patients are not. Two wrongs never make a right!

  • Mariamante

    There is no war on drugs, and the Fed’s silence in regards to this national epidemic is revealing. I grew up in Miami in the 90′s. That was a real war on drugs, therefore cocaine was too expensive for curious kids. Feds were in Colombia burning fields, and making seizures daily before the shipments got into the country. Federal agencies actions were nightly news. Today the DEA is mia. Holder’s ATF was giving an arsenal of weapons tomthe murderous Sinaloa cartel, in Fast and Furious. SEC turns a blind eye to money laundering by Wall Street banks.

    South America there is a term called “Nacion Narco”. It is when governments are bought by the $3 Trillion narco cartels. Most educated people understand that major trafficking doesn’t happen without government complicity. We are living a charade.

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