Public Dismisses Quitting ‘Cold Turkey’ as Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment

Americans Believe Both Medical and Non-Medical Services Needed to Address Opioid Epidemic, but Do Not Know What Services Are Available

CHICAGO, August 20, 2019 — Only 17 percent of adults say a “cold-turkey” approach is an effective option for treating opioid abuse. Instead, most people think community support, therapy, inpatient stays, and medication for withdrawal symptoms are effective treatment options.

Nine in 10 adults (89%) believe non-medical services would help a person stay in treatment for opioid abuse.

Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed think resources other than health care-related treatment options would help people remain in treatment for opioid abuse. The non-medical service most commonly selected by respondents is one-on-one support from another person in recovery (54%). Roughly a third of respondents think support with paying utility bills (39%), access to safe and affordable housing (37%), meal support (30%), or transportation assistance (30%) would be helpful while undergoing treatment.

Resources that People Believe Would Help Someone Stay in Treatment for Opioid Abuse

“More people are coming to the realization that substance use disorder is a complex condition that requires more than a medical solution,” said Alana Knudson, Program Area Director at NORC at the University of Chicago. “These survey results show that a majority of people believe that helping someone struggling with opioid misuse requires addressing the broader social determinants with services that support both their medical and non-medical needs.”

Seven in 10 adults do not know what treatment services are offered by their state or local government, or what portion of the costs of treatment would be covered by their insurance.

Sixty-nine percent of adults surveyed do not know if their state or local governments offer any type of free opioid abuse treatment. Furthermore, 69 percent of respondents do not know how much of their treatment costs would be covered by health insurance.

Health insurance coverage for opioid treatment varies greatly based on the type of treatment an individual is seeking as well as the type of insurance they have. Research shows that methadone is the gold standard in treatment for opioid use disorder, yet plans frequently do not cover it.

Knowledge of Free Opioid Treatment Options and Insurance Coverage

When respondents were asked how they would go about finding information about opioid abuse treatment options, 37 percent said they would contact their doctor’s office, followed by 22 percent who would find information through Google or other websites. “It is not surprising that most people do not know what coverage for opioid treatment is available,” said Caroline Pearson, Senior Vice President at NORC at the University of Chicago. “Therefore, it is important that public health resources meet people where they are and make information available through multiple avenues.”


The self-funded poll was conducted between July 26 and July 28, 2019, during a monthly omnibus. It included 1,002 interviews with a nationally representative sample (margin of sampling error +/- 4.1 percentage points including the design effect) of adults using the AmeriSpeak® Panel. AmeriSpeak® is NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. A comprehensive listing of all study questions, tabulations of top-level results for each question, and detailed methodology is available here.

About the AmeriSpeak® Spotlight on Health

NORC at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak® Spotlight on Health is a series of quick-hitting national surveys on issues vital to health and well-being, conducted using AmeriSpeak®’s probability-based panel.

About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, nonpartisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.

Contact: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).

More NORC Research on Opioids
In October of 2018, NORC at the University of Chicago and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development released The National Opioid Misuse Community Assessment Tool. It is the first ever interactive data visualization of national county-level drug overdose mortality rates. Developed by NORC at the University of Chicago’s Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, the tool integrates overdose mortality rates for counties in each of the 50 states with social determinants of health data such as unemployment rate, poverty rate, and disability status. Users can compare county-level information to the rest of their state and to the nation, seeing a visual representation of how the data has changed over time. From the tool users can print and email county and state-level fact sheets highlighting overdose mortality data to aid in community assessment and response planning.