Durham County

1 in 3 North Carolinians touched by opioid crisis, poll states.

An arrangement of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen pill is pictured in this photo illustration.
An arrangement of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen pill is pictured in this photo illustration. AP

Nearly one in three North Carolinians say they have been personally affected by opioid addiction or have someone close to them who has, the most recent Elon University Poll has found.

The survey found the crisis has touched 31 percent of respondents or their friends and family members, while 67 percent said they had not been affected.

Those results were part of a broader package of questions examining how opioid addiction is being viewed by voters in North Carolina. Asked about the amount of attention the use of opioids is receiving, 45 percent said it’s receiving too little, 39 percent said it’s receiving the right amount of attention and 11 percent said too much.

“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.

Gov. Roy Cooper and President Donald Trump have addressed the seriousness of the crisis.

Opioids, used to treat moderate to severe pain, include prescription drugs like Oxycodone and hydrocodone (also called Vicodin), morphine and methadone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain, the CDC states.

Heroin also is an opioid, but is illegal.

The CDC states that the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) has quadrupled since 1999. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses; 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, the CDC states.

The Elon Poll canvassed callers on landlines and cell phones. The survey of 771 registered voters in North Carolina was conducted Nov. 6-9. Survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Here are some more results from the poll:

▪  Asked which is the larger problem – prescription drugs used improperly or the use of street drugs like heroin — close to 60 percent pointed to the abuse of prescription medications compared to illegal opioids, the poll found.

▪  Among respondents, 42.5 percent said their communities do not have the resources they need to respond to the opioid crisis, while 28.5 percent said their communities did.

▪  As for how the opioid crisis should be addressed, 56 percent said the illegal use of prescriptions drugs should be dealt with by doctors through the medical system, while 21 percent said prosecutors in the criminal justice system should be the main way to address the issue.

▪  Younger residents were more likely to say that they and those close to them have been touched by the issue. Among Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 36), the poll found 43 percent have been personally impacted, compared to 18 percent of residents 73 years old or older.

▪  The poll found a racial split, with white residents more than twice as likely to report being personally touched by the crisis than black residents (36 vs. 17 percent). Suburban residents were more likely to report an impact (38 percent) than rural (31 percent) or urban (28 percent) residents.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1