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NEW YORK — Three out of every four American lives have been touched by addiction in some way, new research suggests. In a survey of 2,000 respondents, at least 73 percent report having a personal connection to substance addiction – most commonly among their friends (56%), family members (56%), and acquaintances (48%).

Fifty-seven percent add they know someone who has struggled with substance abuse in the past, while 42 percent know someone who’s still struggling with it today.

That includes the respondents themselves, as 46 percent admit they’ve felt “dependent on certain substances,” such as prescription medication or alcohol, and 28 percent even identified themselves as survivors of addiction.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Landmark Recovery, the survey also found that almost half (47%) believe substance abuse is a “serious problem” in their own communities.

This may be why 69 percent believe they’ve become more sympathetic to those suffering from drug addiction over the past five years – especially millennials (ages 26-41), 80 percent of whom reported increased feelings of sympathy compared to 66 percent of Gen Xers (ages 42-56) and 39 percent of baby boomers (ages 57-75).

Regardless of age, 76 percent agree that stigmatizing sufferers of substance use disorder ultimately does more harm to them than good.

addiction substance abuse

How do Americans view this struggle?

Survey-takers were more likely to select terms and phrases like “in need of help” (31%), “serious” (24%), and “heartbreaking” (23%) to describe substance use disorders — far more so than negative terms like “selfish” (11%) or “dirty” (9%).

Similarly, they also described people who complete their addiction treatment as “strong” (40%) and “courageous” (38%).

Addiction is a disease, not a choice,” says Matt Boyle, chief executive officer of Landmark Recovery, in a statement. “When someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs their brain changes, and they lose control. As this survey shows, addiction impacts people from all walks of life. Recovering from a substance use disorder is harder than most people think. A personalized treatment plan will increase your chances of making a long-term recovery from substance use disorder.”

Of those polled, 61 percent feel that decriminalizing drugs has improved circumstances for people who need help, and 71 percent would support the idea of financially subsidizing addiction treatment.

Despite all this support, 49 percent still believe that drug and alcohol addiction are a “choice” rather than a disease (36%).

Although respondents labeled costs as the biggest barriers to treatment (29%), they also cited denial (28%) and lack of willpower (27%) among addiction sufferers.

“It is encouraging to see that 80 percent of the people that took the survey believe addiction treatment can help someone recover from substance use disorders,” Boyle notes. “More people are coming to the realization that dealing with addiction alone does not work, but the most successful pathway to sustained recovery is through joining a support network through treatment.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Landmark Recovery between November 4 and November 8, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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