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Three-Quarters of Americans Believe Health Insurance Should Pay for Addiction Treatment, Yet Most Don't Know If Their Health Plan Covers Substance-Abuse Care, Says New Hazelden Survey
Date:2/3/2009

CENTER CITY, Minn., Feb. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly three out of four Americans (71 percent) agree that health insurance should cover the cost of addiction treatment - yet most consumers have no idea if their own health insurance would pay for substance abuse treatment, according to the first-ever "Public Attitudes Toward Addiction Survey" from Hazelden, the national nonprofit organization that helps people reclaim their lives from drug addiction.

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With the passage of the U.S. Mental Health Parity Law last October and the Obama administration now designing its agenda on healthcare issues, it's striking that most Americans (77 percent) agree that addiction treatment should be part of healthcare reform. Hazelden's new survey also found that: most Americans (78 percent ) understand that drug addiction is a chronic disease rather than a personal failing; and more than half (56 percent) say their company doesn't have an Employee Assistance Program to help employees deal with problems involving alcohol or other drugs.

Addiction Still Widespread in American Families

Among the most dramatic of Hazelden's survey findings was the prevalence of addiction within American families:

  • Nearly one-third of Americans responding reported past abuse of alcohol or drugs in their immediate family - and of those households with an immediate family member who had an addiction problem, nearly half (44 percent) reported more than one family member with a drug problem.
  • A third of the families which reported a drug problem in their immediate family say that a majority of their family members have problems with drugs. With one in six of the respondents dealing with substance abuse in their family, every member of the family has a problem with drugs or alcohol.
  • When you expand the questions to include both immediate and extended family, virtually half of Americans surveyed reported three or more family members have experienced a problem with drugs during their lives.

Drug "War" Not Working, Support for Prevention/Treatment

The Hazelden survey also indicated that Americans will want changes in how their government and businesses handles addiction and treatment:

  • Seventy-nine percent feel the War on Drugs has not been successful.
  • Eighty-three percent agree that much more should be done to prevent addiction.
  • A majority (83 percent) believe that first-time drug offenders should get chemical dependency treatment rather than prison time.
  • Most respondents (77 percent) agree that many addicts who complete treatment go on to lead useful lives.

Stigma of Addiction Still an Obstacle to Healing

Hazelden's survey revealed that stigma still remains toward people who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Although 78 percent of Americans recognize that addiction is a chronic disease rather than a moral failing, the words used by those surveyed when asked to describe people who have problems with drugs or alcohol included: "sinner," "irresponsible," "selfish," "stupid," "uncaring," "loser," "undisciplined," "pitiful," "pathetic," "weak," "criminal," "derelict," "washed up" and "crazy." The single highest negative consequence reported of having a family member with a drug problem was "embarrassment/social stigma."

"What Hazelden's new survey brought home to me is that Americans understand addiction is a disease, yet much more work must be done to explain how effective treatment can be for addicts and to bring an end to the stigma that prevents addicts from pursuing treatment," says William Cope Moyers, executive director of Hazelden's Center for Public Advocacy. "We also learned that 58 percent would like more of this discussion about addiction to be done in public." Accordingly, Moyers says the "Attitudes Toward Addiction Survey" has become the catalyst for a 2009 public advocacy campaign that Hazelden will soon launch in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

"Hazelden's Center for Public Advocacy is dedicated to changing public perceptions about addiction and promoting public policy that puts recovery within reach of all who need it," said Mark Mishek, president and CEO of Hazelden. "The good news is - effective treatment for addiction exists, people in recovery lead useful lives and insurance could, and should, cover addiction treatment. Let's work together to help improve public understanding of America's No. 1 health problem - addiction to alcohol and other drugs."

About Hazelden

Hazelden, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1949, has helped tens of thousands of people reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. With plans to celebrate its 60th Anniversary this year, Hazelden offers the nation's most comprehensive approach to addiction by addressing the full range of patient, family, and professional needs, including treatment and continuing care for youth and adults, research, higher learning, public education and advocacy, and publishing. It has facilities in Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois and New York. For more information, visit www.hazelden.org

About the Addiction Survey

This addiction attitude survey, conducted by telephone for Hazelden, polled a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.

Media Note: For more information about the Hazelden Survey or for interviews with spokesperson William Cope Moyers, contact Christine Anderson at 612-659-8727 and canderson@hazelden.org or Paul Maccabee/Jill Lewis at 612-337-0087.


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SOURCE Hazelden Foundation
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