A National Portrait of Public Attitudes toward Opioid Use in the US: A Latent Class Analysis

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Mar 2;20(5):4455. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20054455.


Background: Opioid overdose rates have steadily been increasing in the United States (US) creating what is considered an overdose death crisis. The US has a mixture of public health and punitive policies aimed to address opioid use and the overdose crisis, yet little is known about public opinion relating to opioid use and policy support. Understanding the intersection of public opinion about opioid use disorder (OUD) and policy can be useful for developing interventions to address policy responses to overdose deaths.

Methods: A national sample of cross-sectional data from the AmeriSpeak survey conducted from 27 February 2020 through 2 March 2020 was analyzed. Measures included attitudes toward OUD and policy beliefs. Latent class analysis, a person-centered approach, was used to identify groups of individuals endorsing similar stigma and policy beliefs. We then examined the relationship between the identified groups (i.e., classes) and key behavioral and demographic factors.

Results: We identified three distinct groups: (1) "High Stigma/High Punitive Policy", (2) "High Stigma/Mixed Public Health and Punitive Policy", and (3) "Low Stigma/High Public Health Policy". People with higher levels of education had reduced odds of being in the "High Stigma/High Punitive Policy" group.

Conclusion: Public health policies are most effective in addressing OUD. We suggest targeting interventions toward the "High Stigma/Mixed Public Health and Punitive Policy" group since this group already displays some support for public health policies. Broader interventions, such as eliminating stigmatizing messaging in the media and redacting punitive policies, could reduce OUD stigma among all groups.

Keywords: opioid use disorder; policy; public opinion; stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Attitude
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Overdose* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Public Opinion*
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid