Most Americans think policies being discussed in Congress to combat prescription painkiller abuse would be at least somewhat effective in addressing the problem, a recent Morning Consult poll finds.
It makes sense, then, that proposals to address the growing crisis have passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support in recent weeks and months. The House and Senate are poised to convene a conference committee to merge their various bills with a package they hope will make it to President Obama’s desk before Congress recesses in July.
If that schedule sticks and Obama signs a bill, lawmakers from both parties will be able to campaign on their successful opioid legislation leading up to the November election. Many of the lawmakers who have been heavily involved in the issue, such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), face tough elections this fall. They are also from states that have been hit hard by heroin and prescription drug abuse.
Prescription drug and heroin abuse are fairly tangible issues for voters. Almost two-fifths of voters surveyed by Morning Consult (39 percent) said they know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, and 30 percent said they know someone who has been addicted to heroin.
Most voters are in agreement that heroin and prescription drug abuse are serious problems in the United States. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) said the problem of heroin abuse is “very serious,” while 23 percent said it is “somewhat serious.” Similarly, 68 percent of registered voters said prescription drug abuse is “very serious,” and 22 percent said it is “somewhat serious.”
Between the House and the Senate, lawmakers have authorized several new policies they say will address several aspects of the problem. Across the board, healthy majorities of voters think that all of the various policies on tap would be at least somewhat effective in addressing the opioid problem.
For example, almost three-fourths of respondents (74 percent) think limiting the number of prescription painkiller refills that patients can access without returning to their doctor would be the most effective policy to address prescription painkiller abuse, with 44 percent saying it would be very effective and 30 percent saying it would be somewhat effective. Expanding drug education efforts for teens, parents and aging seniors (72 percent) and expanding prescription monitoring programs (71 percent) would also be at least somewhat effective, they say.
Voters also support expanding access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. Expanding its availability to police, firefighters and emergency medical doctors would be very effective, 39 percent of those surveyed said, or somewhat effective, 31 percent said.
Lawmakers have also floated making Naloxone available over the counter, which 29 percent of voters said would be very effective and another 29 percent said would be somewhat effective. But that particular proposal is not in the mix of opioid responses that are in the House and Senate packages. The others Morning Consult asked about are in one or both bills.
As lawmakers head to conference, there are some differences between the House and Senate bills. In March, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which lead sponsors Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) say includes more provisions regarding prescription drug monitoring and drug takeback programs, as well as prevention initiatives.
Even with different provisions in their bills, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who is a lead conferee, has said the bipartisan support around the issue is a sign that both chambers would be able to rally around a compromise to send to the White House.