WASHINGTON, December 13, 2022 – After five years of outreach and education by farm groups, a new poll shows increased awareness and willingness to talk about the opioid crisis among rural adults, compared to 2017. Sixty percent say adults in their community are more aware of the crisis than they were five years ago, and nearly 8 in 10 adults (77%) report feeling comfortable having a conversation about opioids.
However, survey results also reveal that more rural adults believe there is a higher rate of opioid misuse in rural communities than in the rest of the country (urban and suburban areas), compared to five years ago. The percentage of rural adults who say they know someone who is or has been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers remains close to half.
“The opioid crisis has been a dark cloud over farming communities for far too long, which is why the American Farm Bureau Federation joined with National Farmers Union five years ago in a quest to address one of the most difficult problems faced by our members,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “We are pleased this new poll shows encouraging signs when it comes to reducing stigma and feeling prepared for tough conversations about addiction, but it also shows that we have more work to do. We remain committed to working with NFU and other partners to advance a healthy farm state of mind.”
To help increase awareness of mental healthcare resources, AFBF and NFU have consistently worked to publicize and compile useful material to help address rural stress, mental health challenges and opioid misuse.
“As farmers and ranchers, we are proud to look out for our families and neighbors. Collectively we need to continue to educate ourselves about the impacts of mental health and opioid use in our communities,” NFU President Rob Larew said. “We must continue to reduce the stigma to connect our loved ones with health care and treatment they may need. I thank AFBF for being a teammate on this project, and the survey results show what is possible when farm organizations work together.” (An audio recording of this quote can be found here.)
While survey responses indicate that 40% of rural adults say it is easy for someone in their community to access a large amount of prescription opioids without a medical need, this is a six-percentage point decrease from 2017.
Survey results also reinforced the need for systemic solutions to the opioid crisis, including increased access to addiction treatment programs and increased access to mental healthcare, as well as monitoring how much and how often doctors prescribe painkillers.
The survey of 2,000 rural adults was conducted by Morning Consult in October. Additional survey results are available here.