WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nearly one in three Americans (32%) say that drug use has been a cause of trouble in their family. The latest figure, similar to measures from 2018 and 2019, reflects a sizable increase since the 1990s and early 2000s in the percentage of U.S. families that have experienced struggles with drugs.
Line graph. Americans reporting drug abuse has been a cause of problems in their family. Currently, 32% of Americans report drug abuse has caused trouble in their families, little changed from 27% who said the same in 2019.
These data were collected as part of Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 1-19.
Reports of family drug issues increased from an average of 18% of Americans in Gallup's first two readings, in 1995 and 1999, to an average of 23% in the early 2000s. By the time Gallup revisited the question in the late 2010s, reports of family drug problems had increased to an average of 29%.
The latest results conform with federal statistics on drug-involved overdose deaths, which increased nearly every year from 1999 to 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Americans' reports of drugs causing problems within their family have increased among residents of all U.S. regions and across all political party, education, urbanicity and income groups since the early 2000s.
The largest increases in reports of family drug issues have been experienced by Americans living in rural areas and those in high-income households, both up by 11 percentage points.
Americans consistently have been more than twice as likely to describe the drug problem in the U.S. as "extremely" or "very serious" than to describe the drug problem in their local area this way.
A majority of Americans (64%) maintain that the nation's drug problem is extremely or very serious — though this figure is, by one point, the lowest in Gallup's trend since 2000 and down nine points from 2019. The percentage describing the drug problem in the U.S. as serious has generally hovered around the 70% mark, though it was markedly higher in Gallup's first measure in 2000, at 83%. Descriptions of the nation's problem with drugs may have been slightly elevated in 2019, after Purdue Pharma reached a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits against the company for its role in the opioid crisis.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who say the drug problem in their local area is extremely or very serious is stable, at 31%. This measure has remained in a narrow range, between 29% and 34%, since 2000.
Line graph. Americans' perceptions of the drug problem in the U.S. overall and in the areas where they live. Currently, 64% of Americans say the drug problem is extremely or very serious where they live, while 31% say the same of the issue in the local areas where they live.
Issues with drugs are affecting more U.S. families than they once did. The growth in reports of family drug problems cuts across all major demographic groups, likely reflecting the widespread nature of the national opioid crisis.
Most Americans continue to view the problem of drugs, nationally, as highly serious. The decrease in this sentiment in the latest poll may be related to the fact that, over the past two years, Americans' biggest concerns — and the media's — have mostly centered on COVID-19, the 2020 election and the economy, taking attention away from drugs in the scope of all problems facing the U.S.
Meanwhile, as a local issue, the problem of drugs remains just as serious to Americans as it has been over the course of Gallup's trend. But in recent years, the issue has become personal for a larger segment of Americans who have faced troubles with drugs in their own household.
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Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 1-19, 2021, with a random sample of 823 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
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November 11, 2021
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