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Farmers hit hard by opioid crisis

December 11, 2017
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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A study published recently by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union shows farmers and ranchers have been hit significantly harder by the opioid crisis than rural populations overall.

Nearly three-quarters—74%—of farmers surveyed say they have been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic, compared to 45% of rural Americans overall. Similarly, 77% of farmers (and 74% of agriculture workers in general) say it is easy to illegally access prescription opioids or painkillers in their community compared to 46% of all rural Americans polled for the survey, which was conducted by Morning Consult, a market research firm.

Understanding the challenge

Three out of four rural adults surveyed recognize opioid abuse can begin with use of what are deemed to be “safe” prescribed opioids or painkillers, and half of respondents say addiction to opioids is a disease rather than the result of a lack of willpower. Still, other findings in the study illustrate one blind spot in rural America’s understanding of the opioid crisis: the extent of it in rural America’s own backyard:

  • Just 31% of rural Americans surveyed acknowledged “rural communities are impacted the most by the opioid crisis” to be a true statement.
  • 57% of rural Americans says opioid abuse is a major problem in urban communities, while just 47% acknowledge it as such for rural communities.

Pursuing solutions

Respondents showed little confidence in the availability of treatment. About a third (34%) of rural adults say it would be easy to access treatment for an addiction to prescription drugs or heroin, while 38% feel they could seek care that is effective, covered by insurance, convenient or affordable.

Two methods of addressing the opioid crisis were supported by a majority of those taking part in the poll:

  • 68% say they are in favor of increasing public education surrounding resources.
  • 57% say reducing shame and/or stigma around opioid addiction is an effective part of solving the opioid crisis.