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New APA Poll: Most Americans Believe They’d Know How to Get Help for a Loved One Living with Addiction; Define Recovery as “Being Able to Function Better in Life”

  • August 30, 2023

Washington, D.C. — Nearly three in four Americans (71%) say they’d know how to get a friend or family member help with addiction, and most would refer a loved one to recovery treatment (73%) and or initiate a conversation with them about it (74%). As America marks National Recovery Month this September, the majority of adults (65%) said that recovery from substance use disorder or other mental illness means “being able to function better in life,” when asked to choose among a variety of different options.

These results are according to the new Healthy Minds Monthly poll from the American Psychiatric Association, fielded Aug. 12-13, 2023, among 2,201 adults. For the poll, addiction was defined as “an equivalent term for substance dependence and is sometimes applied to behavioral disorders, such as sexual, internet and gambling addictions.”

When asked to select which treatment they’d be most likely to recommend to a friend or family member with addiction, American adults were most likely to say in-patient treatment (24%), or support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (23%). Nearly one-fifth of adults (19%) had no opinion or didn’t know what treatment they’d recommend, fewer selected:

  • Out-patient rehabilitation (8%).
  • Interventions (7%).
  • Medication-assisted treatment (6%).
  • Detoxing or quitting cold turkey (6%).
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (4%).
  • Digital therapeutics (1%) or other (1%).

“It’s promising, especially during Recovery Month, that Americans show such openness to talking with loved ones who may have substance use disorders or behavioral addictions,” said APA President Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A. “The public's recommendations for treatment indicate a level of familiarity with certain methods of recovery – mutual help groups, Alcoholics Anonymous for example, or rehab – which are well-known in popular culture. This is good news, but at the same time, physicians like me need to continue to educate patients and families about other safe and effective methods of treating addiction, such as medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Younger adults ages 18-34 (44%) are twice as likely as adults 65 or older (22%) to say they know someone they suspect currently struggles with addiction. Younger adults were also more likely than adults 65 and older to say they would initiate a conversation with someone who’s struggling with addiction.

Those who said they knew someone struggling with addiction (36% of those surveyed) said they would be likely to refer them to recovery treatment (80%) or initiate a conversation with them about mental health or addiction (81%).

Who Do Americans Reach Out to For Addiction Help?

When asked who among a list of options they’d reach out to for help with a family or friend with addiction:

  • 53% of Americans said a doctor.
  • 51% said their family.
  • 43% said local community resources.
  • 36% said friends.
  • 34% would look to online resources.
  • 21% would go to their church or clergy.
  • 8% selected social media.
  • 4% said a university or school.
  • 4% said other
  • 10% either didn’t know or had no opinion.

Younger generations were more likely to indicate they’d seek out information on social media, with 13% of 18-34-year-olds making that selection and 15% of 35-44-year-olds saying so.

“Reaching younger generations with credible, evidence-based information on social media, particularly about subjects like mental illness and addiction, is critical,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “The trends in the poll absolutely support that organizations like ours have a role to play in ensuring medically accurate information is available and widespread on these channels.”

When asked which statements best explained recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders, after the top response of “being able to function better in life,” other recovery definitions included: “feeling better” (38%), “feeling back to one’s old self” (36%), and “no long having a diagnosis” (20%). In addition, 5% said it was something else and 7% said recovery was not possible.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit

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