While the new Obama Administration has been focused – rightfully – on the financial crisis and the impact this is having on the average American, another crisis has been simmering, beneath the radar.
This crisis deserves equal attention because of its devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. And because it is growing – in part fueled by the economic crisis.
The crisis is addiction.
A recent research project Phoenix House commissioned from pollsters Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates found that 1 in 4 Americans feel that drug abuse across the country is a crisis and nearly another 2/3 of Americans describe it as a serious problem. This totals to a staggering 88% of the population who feel that drug abuse is either at serious or crisis levels.
Yet, we know at Phoenix House that only 1 in 10 individuals with addiction receive the treatment they need. In fact, a majority of Americans admit that they know only a little or nothing at all about substance abuse programs and organizations – underlining the need for higher awareness that there is treatment available.
We fully support the focus on demand reduction by the new administration; the selections of Gil Kerlikowske and Tom McLellan at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) are inspired choices that demonstrate a long overdue return of attention to this problem. This re-commitment is very timely, since our research revealed that substance abuse seems to be exacerbated by the poor economy.
Some of the most important – and troubling – findings in our research reveal that the economy is having a devastating effect on addiction and abuse:
- 29% feel that younger people are abusing drugs more than usual and 26% are drinking more in this economy.
- 18% feel their friends and neighbors are drinking more than usual and 17% say that is true of their co-workers.
- 8% admit they are abusing drugs more than usual and 7% admit they are drinking more.
And all this is happening at a time when state governments are faced with pressure to reduce funding of existing programs, and cutbacks have already begun to happen.
It is tragic that while substance abuse is considered to be a serious — and growing – problem, public support for treatment is muted because of the stigma associated with addiction and with those who misuse drugs and alcohol.
We at Phoenix House see the tragedies that these lives of addiction bring with them and spread to all of those around the addict or alcoholic. But we also see every day the hope that comes with treatment. We live it.
It is time we educated the public about this disease more effectively. Removing the stigma of addiction will result in an increase of funding from all sectors, and then, finally, we will have a chance to treat this crisis with the seriousness it deserves.
So, welcome to our new blog: Rising Above Addiction. Over the coming months, we hope to offer a steady stream of statistics, expertise, and stories – of trials and of treatment, of pain and of the cycle of recovery. We at Phoenix House know that there is hope, and that treatment works. And we would like to share that hope with you.
To learn more about Phoenix House, please visit www.phoenixhouse.org.
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