Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have reported losing someone to a drug overdose: Study

Roughly one in every three Americans have reported knowing someone who has died of a drug overdose, a new survey found.

The poll, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that 32 percent of people have known someone who has died of a drug overdose. Those who reported knowing someone who has passed away from drug use were also more likely to support policy aimed at curbing addition, per the poll.

The survey results, published Friday in JAMA Network, suggest that an avenue for enacting greater policy change for addiction may be by mobilizing those who lost someone due to drug addiction, researchers wrote.

Experts also noted that opioids — often prescribed by doctors for pain management — especially with the proliferation of powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl and polysubstance, have accelerated the rising rate of overdose deaths in recent years.

Since 1999, more than 1 million people have died of a drug overdose in the United States and while studies are still being conducted on the reasoning, researchers noted that there’s not much known about the impacts on the family or friends of the deceased.

The survey also found that personal overdose loss was more prevalent among groups with lower incomes but did not differ much across political parties.

Nearly 30 percent of Democrats said they lost someone to overdose, while 33 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents said the same.

“This cross-sectional study found that 32% of US adults reporting knowing someone who died of a drug overdose and that personal overdose loss was associated with greater odds of endorsing addiction as an important policy issue,” the researchers wrote. “The findings suggest that mobilization of this group may be an avenue to facilitate greater policy change.”

A similar study examined overdose deaths from 2011 to 2021 and estimates that more than 321,000 children in the U.S. have lost a parent to drug overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. drug overdose deaths dropped slightly in 2023, the first annual decrease in overdose deaths since 2018. Still, the overall number of deaths is extremely high, with more than 107,000 people dying in 2023 due to the overuse of drugs.

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