Rural Americans say they are more aware of, and more willing to talk about, the opioid problem in the nation and their communities than they were five years ago, according to an online poll of rural adults sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union.

Sixty percent said adults are more aware of the crisis than they were five years ago, and 77% said they would comfortable having a conversation about opioids, but 47% said there is stigma or shame associated with opioid abuse in their community.

Rural adults increasingly regard drug addiction as a disease. Asked if addiction to opioids is a disease or is due to a lack of will power or self-control, 57% said it's a disease and 21% said otherwise. In 2017, the numbers were 46% and 26%, respectively. Likewise, 78% said someone can accidentally or unintentionally get addicted to opioids; five years ago, 71% said that.

The poll found that more rural adults than five years ago believe there is a higher rate of opioid misuse in rural communities than in urban and suburban areas), and 48% said they know someone who is or has been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers.

Asked if they had taken an opioid or prescription painkiller without a prescription, 5 percent said yes. The same percentage said they had abused opioids or prescription painkillers or been addicted to them. Asked how comfortable they would feel talking about that, 70% said they would feel very or somewhat comfortable discussing it with friends, 52% with siblings and 46% with parents. Beyond their immediate families, most said they would be not too comfortable, or not comfortable at all.

Read the full article about opioid use in rural areas by Heather Close at The Rural Blog.