Stigma & Discrimination

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Drug and alcohol addiction is one of the nation's most serious and persistent health problems.

            --  Principles of Addiction Medicine, 2003

There are more treatments available. There is better understanding. There is more acceptance that addiction is a medical condition with real medical solutions than there ever has been.

            --  A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., 2006

Untreated addiction costs lives, destroys families and poses an enormous drain on the economy. Yet public misunderstanding of this pernicious illness pervades the national consciousness.

HBO's Addiction Project demonstrates conclusively that this disease is treatable.

"Recovery for the addict is possible," writes HBO President of Documentary Programming Shelia Nevins in the project's companion book, Addiction (Rodale, 2007). But, she adds, recovery is "a monumental struggle" and facing addiction requires "a lifelong commitment by those who care."

Because of public confusion and uncertainty about addiction, and the enormous stigma of the disease, only 10 percent of the people in need of alcohol and drug treatment each year get help. As a result:

  • In the past year, 1.3 million people age 12 and older were dependent on alcohol and drugs, including 183,000 12-to 17-year olds.
  • Some $276 billion was spent or lost in 2005 on healthcare, lost productivity, premature death, auto accidents and crime relating to drug and alcohol.
  • Nearly 70 percent of people 18 or older who are addicted are in the workforce.
  • Seventy-five to 80 percent of inmates are drug involved.