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Research reveals how addiction impacts Americans

Nearly 60% of Americans know someone who has struggled with substance abuse.

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Close-up of a devastated young man holding his head in his hands and friends supporting him during group therapy
(Shutterstock vía Ground Picture)

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% reported having a personal connection to substance addiction – most commonly among their friends (56%), family members (56%) and acquaintances (48%).

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

That includes the respondents themselves – 46% admitted they’ve felt “dependent on certain substances,” such as prescription medication or alcohol, and 28% 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.

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

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

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,” said Matt Boyle, chief executive officer of Landmark Recovery. “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% feel that decriminalizing drugs has improved circumstances for people who need help, and 71% said they’d support the idea of financially subsidizing addiction treatment.

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

And 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% of the people that took the survey believe addiction treatment can help someone recover from substance use disorders,” Boyle noted. “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.”


  1. Cost/affordability - 29%
  2. Denial - 28%
  3. Lack of willpower - 27%
  4. Accessibility of substances - 22%
  5. Admission difficulty - 22%
  6. Lack of health care coverage - 21%
  7. Low availability of treatment - 20%
  8. Medical conditions - 18%
  9. Public Perception - 18%
  10. Fear of treatment - 22%

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).

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