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One in four Americans has a family member who is struggling with addiction.  In 2005, there were 23.2 million Americans who needed treatment for their illicit drug or alcohol abuse problems, yet only about 10% received the treatment they needed.

HBO, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), has produced an unprecedented multi-media campaign aimed at helping Americans understand addiction as a treatable brain disease, as well as spotlighting new medical advancements.

For the first time, HBO will use all of its digital platforms, including the HBO main service, multiplex channels, HBO On Demand, podcasts, web streams, and DVD sales. The major components of the ADDICTION Project are :

The ADDICTION project targets anyone concerned about addiction: addicted individuals themselves, or their family and friends -- all of whom are searching for a better understanding of what addiction is and how to find effective treatment. 

Why This Project is Different

Countless television shows, both fictional and real, have captured the seemingly hopeless downward spiral of the drug addict or alcoholic.  But, they have failed to explain to the public:

  • What addiction really is (a brain disease);
  • What causes it (a variety of genetic and psychosocial factors); and
  • How to get the best available treatment (by seeking out evidence-based medical and behavioral treatments).

A spouse, child, parent or friend  who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction often asks "why can't they just stop?" or wonders whether treatment might work for them. 

What we hear about addiction tends to be oversimplified.  Addicts are often portrayed as following one of two paths: being weak-willed and succumbing to their addiction, or having some form of epiphany and turning their life around.  These extremes obscure the complexity of addiction.  The truth is that addiction alters the brain in ways that can make recovery much more difficult than "just stopping." Recovery can be a messy, imperfect process, and long-term abstinence can take years to accomplish.  Setbacks are common. And yet, many addicts ultimately do recover with the support of others, and -- increasingly -- with the help of new medications.

ADDICTION brings together leading thinkers and organizations that are at the threshold of new treatments.  Current advances in brain imaging science make it possible to see inside the brain of an addicted person, pinpoint the parts of the brain affected by addiction, and see how the addict’s brain differs, ushering in a great many advances in medical treatment.  In fact, treatments for addiction are now as effective as treatments for other chronic relapsing diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma.

A candid depiction of the emotional, psychological, social and political toll that addiction takes on the country, the ADDICTION project demonstrates conclusively that the disease is treatable and shows that there are millions of Americans in long-term recovery.  Topics covered include:  the nature of addiction, addiction in the workplace, and the protracted insurance battles waged by families, as well as the difficulty of finding and getting adequate treatment.

NEXT: Key messages conveyed through the project.

The above information is courtesy of HBO.