One of every four Ohioans knows someone who has misused a pain drug, a new poll out Tuesday shows. And one of five knows somebody who has used heroin, according to the new Ohio Health Issues Poll for Interact for Health, the Norwood-based nonprofit that uses education, advocacy and action to improve health for people in its 20-county service area around Cincinnati.
The results underscore how entrenched the disease of opioid and heroin addiction is in Greater Cincinnati and the state.
The statewide poll results, which were similar to the regional answers, were collected from 439 landline telephone interviews and 424 cell phone interviews. The poll, made by the University of Cincinnati 's Institute for Policy Research, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Statewide, 26 percent of adults said they know someone who has misused a pain drug, compared to 28.7 percent in last year's poll. Across Ohio, 22.5 percent of adults said they knew someone who has used heroin, virtually unchanged from 22.3 percent in 2015.
Kellie Firesheets, Interact for Health's senior program officer for Preventing Opioid Misuse and Safety Net, said the results of the poll are a reminder of the high misuse of prescription painkillers, which are synthetic opioids as opposed to opiates such as heroin,
"We hear a lot about heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil overdoses," Firesheets said. "It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense that pills ‘aren’t that bad.' But people who are abusing pills are at risk for an overdose, and we should take those medications just as seriously as we’re taking heroin."
Dr. Shawn Ryan, a Cincinnati-area certified addiction expert and founder of BrightView Health substance use treatment centers, said that it's best to look at the two sets of answers as a singular outcome, because those who say they know someone with a prescription painkiller addiction may be unaware that the person also has a heroin addiction.
"Nine out of 10 times they'll say, 'I'm not doing heroin. It's just pills,' " Ryan said. Besides that, the user doesn't always know what he or she is getting. Pills sometimes are made from heroin, the powerful opioid fentanyl, and passed off as prescription painkillers.
Ryan was not surprised by the results of the poll and said it illustrates the need for treatment in the region.
Firesheets said the poll also means people should carry naloxone, the life-saving non-narcotic that can restore breathing in those overdosed from opioids or heroin.
"If you have a friend or family member who is abusing pills or using heroin, make sure you have naloxone. You can get it at your local pharmacy," she said.