Siena College poll measures reach of a growing opioid epidemic

Jul 21, 2020

A new survey finds the number of New Yorkers touched by opioid abuse is rising.

Siena College pollster Don Levy says the survey covered many of the same questions about the opioid epidemic that Siena asked New Yorkers two years ago.

"Today we find that 59% of New Yorkers, that's up from 54% two years ago, are touched by the opioid epidemic. That means it's either they, someone in their immediate family, a co-worker, have used opioids or perhaps they know someone who has died from opiate abuse."

Levy says the COVID-19 pandemic has affected opioid use.

"78% of state residents, down slightly from 82% two years ago, say that opioid abuse is a somewhat or a very serious problem in their area. However, the worsening of the epidemic has slowed a bit. Whereas two years ago, over 80% said that things were getting worse, today fewer, 65%, say that the epidemic is worse."

Levy says the poll shows New Yorkers have become much more aware of the potential problems and the dangers associated with prescription painkillers.

Today 59% of New Yorkers touched by opioid epidemic, up from 54% in 2018.

"Again, looking back over the last two years, New York State residents tell us that there's a greater awareness of the danger of prescription pain medication. They feel as though doctors are being more careful describing the medication, and they think that by 57% say, that it is now easier to obtain treatment. Still, the stigma associated with opioid use persists," Levy says.

"A large majority see that 62% believe that is not true that fewer people are dying from opioid use," he continues. "What would they like to see? They would like to see more governmental support for treatment and rehabilitation, more dollars spent in that way. They'd like to see greater wage support for syringe exchange programs. They continue to hold the pharmaceutical companies and to some extent doctors responsible for the epidemic."

Levy notes Siena introduced a new question to the opioid survey this year: "Should high schools randomly drug test students, provided a parent has provided permission?"

"They received 68% in support of that potential initiative. Growing support for supervised injection sites, up to 68%, and greater support for funding for those sites. So there's a greater awareness of the crisis but the crisis persists, touches more New Yorkers than it was two years ago," he says. "But, another bright spot, we do see the doctors, pharmacists seem to have gotten the message. They're prescribing more appropriately and in both cases both doctors and pharmacists are doing a far better job, the public said, in warning patients about the risks of opioid abuse."

The survey found some encouraging signs: 76% up from 70% two years ago say that they were prescribed the right amount of opioids, and far more doctors and pharmacists are warning patients of the risks of opioids today than they were back in 2018. Levy adds 84% of New Yorkers favor punishing doctors who are shown to over-prescribe opioids.

Here's a link to the Siena Poll Results. This poll was conducted online March 3-March 21 through a proprietary panel  of 1,370 New York State residents age 18 and older in English.