The majority of Americans would prefer to manage their pain
with drug-free options like physical therapy instead of opioids

The number of opioid overdoses has more than quadrupled in two decades
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has been consistently exploding to tragic and devastating proportions. More than 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2015, with more than 22,000 of those deaths involving prescriptions opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl. This has been an ongoing trend since at least the late ‘80s, and the number of opioid overdose deaths has more than tripled since 1999. As this problem has been continuing to worsen, Americans are becoming more and more aware of the dangers associated with opioid abuse. Recent survey statistics show that Americans consider opioids to be the most serious local drug problem, and 44% see prescription painkillers as a “crisis” or “very serious problem” in their local area. To develop a clearer idea Americans’ opinions of the use of opioids and how to best manage painful conditions, a study was conducted using a Gallup poll.

More than 6,000 Americans respond to poll request
For the study, the Gallup Panel randomly contacted more than 100,00 American adults through phone and mail, and 6,305 responded to their set of questions about opioids and pain management. Below are some of the most important findings from their responses:

  • About one in four adults (27%) have seen a medical professional for significant neck or back pain in the last 12 months, and 54% of these individuals have had an ongoing problem with neck or back pain for five years or more
  • Among the individuals who have had ongoing neck or back pain during the past 12 months, 70% took a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Advil, 45% took acetaminophen, or Tylenol, and 25% took an opioid
  • Regarding each American’s individual choice, a whopping 78% say they would prefer other ways to address their physical pain before taking a pain medication like an opioid prescribed by a doctor
  • In terms of actual treatment options, 41% of responders would describe physical therapy as “very effective” for their pain, while only 22% said this about prescription medication and 15% said it about back surgery; 45% said physical therapy was “somewhat effective”
  • Finally, nearly one-third of Americans said that prescription medication is either “not very safe” (23%) or “not safe at all” (8%), while 68% said that physical therapy is a “very safe” treatment option

Americans are aware of opioids’ dangers and open to alternative ways to treat pain
These findings reveal a number of important beliefs regarding how Americans feel about the best ways to address their pain. Fortunately, this poll shows that the majority of people are aware of the dangers associated with opioid use and abuse, and are very much interested in using other treatments and approaches to manage their pain. In particular, it appears that most patients in pain believe that physical therapy is a very safe treatment option, and 86% considered it to be effective for reducing their pain levels. This is reassuring news, since it can be taken as a sign that a growing number of people are becoming aware of the risks associated with opioids and are looking to other means to address their pain instead; however, more work still needs to be done. This includes continuing to educate patients on the many treatment options available for painful conditions, and the safety and effectiveness of interventions like physical therapy, which is proven to be beneficial for a range of problems.

-Summarized by Greg Gargiulo

-Summarized from a report in the September ’17 issue of Gallup