While it has taken a lot of social and health studies to surface the full extent of opioid addiction in the United States, it does appear that mainstream media realizes the epidemic goes beyond inner-city heroin addict stories. It should also come as no surprise that too often heroin addiction starts with a simple prescription drug. One of the most commonly prescribed pain medications is Oxycontin from Purdue Pharma. It’s joined by opioid drugs like Percocet, Palladone (taken off the market 7/2005), Vicodin, Percodan, Tylox and Demerol among others.

You can see the coverage trend on the heroin/opioid epidemic below. The topline media rating of 76, albeit a 4-year rating high, actually masks much higher mainstream media coverage volumes. Broad circulation media segments, i.e., worldwide news papers, U.S. newspapers, broadcast, and consumer news are all above 90 points. It’s only when social and search segments weigh in that the final topline rating levels out at 76.

Purely looking at this storyline from a metric perspective, this is a good example of news reporting being ahead of public opinion on a serious, but much-overlooked problem. If you read the in-depth and heartbreaking stories, you realize that most people don’t sense the risk or threat of this epidemic in their own communities. It’s hidden away or assumed to be in some dark urban corner. Only recently has mainstream media begun to expose the problem as an epidemic that does not discriminate based upon demographics, income, or geography.

We’re increasing our monitoring of this media topic in March to include additional prescriptive opioids. We’re also broadening our prescription drug coverage on anti-anxiety and sleep medications as these too have been linked to an epidemic-class substance abuse trend.