October 16, 2019

Half of Americans have been impacted by substance misuse, survey shows

Daily Briefing

    Almost half of adults in the United States say substance misuse has impacted their family, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

    Substance use disorder: How to keep your patients and colleagues safe

    Poll details

    For the poll, Gallup gathered combined data from the results of the firm's 2018 and 2019 Consumption Habits survey, which Gallup conducts each July. The firm gathered data from 2,558 adult respondents. The questions were all "lifetime measures," asking adults if substance misuse has ever been a problem in their family.

    Poll findings

    Gallup found that 46% of respondents said they'd experienced some form of substance misuse in their family. Gallup also broke down poll responses based on whether participants' family had experienced issues with drug misuse, alcohol misuse, or both. Out of all people surveyed, Gallup found:

    • 18% reported both alcohol and drug misuse;
    • 18% reported alcohol misuse only; and
    • 10% reported drug misuse only.

    Gallup also asked participants alcohol about the effects of alcohol and drug misuse in the family. Gallup found 36% of respondents reported that alcohol "has been a cause of trouble in their family," while 26% said drugs had been. 

    Gallup found that the youngest adults were more likely to say drug misuse was "a cause of trouble" in their family than the oldest age cohort. Among adults ages:

    • 18 to 34, 30% said drug misuse was an issue;
    • 35 to 54, 31% said drug misuse was an issue; and
    • 55 and older, 25% said drug misuse was an issue.

    When it came to alcohol misuse, the numbers were closer together, with 38%, 35%, and 37% of younger, middle-aged, and older adults, respectively, saying it was a "cause of trouble" in their family.

    Women were also more likely than men to say substance misuse had been a problem in their family.

    In addition, Gallup found that adults in the Western region of the United States were more likely say alcohol and drug misuse were problems in their family than residents of all other parts of the country.  

    Substance misuse trends

    The share of adults who told Gallup that alcohol is a problem for their family has increased since the 1940s, according to Gallup. The percentage who said alcohol was a problem in their family increased from 15% in 1947 to between 28% and 37% in the 2000s. Based on those numbers, Gallup said today's 36% is "on the high side," Gallup said.

    Gallup said it is unsure whether the increase in reported alcohol misuse as a family problem is due to an actual increase in alcohol misuse or increased reporting of the issue from respondents. However, Gallup noted that drinking isn't more common now than it was in the 1940s, with around 65% of adults reporting they drink alcohol.

    As for drug misuse, the percentage of adults who said drug misuse was a problem in their family increased slightly from 18% in 1995 to over 20% in the 2000s. After a lag in measurement, Gallup found in 2018-2019 that 28% of U.S. residents said drug misuse was a family problem (Budryk, The Hill, 10/14; Saad, Gallup, release, 10/14).

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