HBO Addiction Project reveals disease realities

NEW YORK: HBO is partnering with national and grassroots organizations to reveal the dimensions of drug and alcohol abuse in the US through a nationwide multimedia campaign: the Addiction Project.

NEW YORK: HBO is partnering with national and grassroots organizations to reveal the dimensions of drug and alcohol abuse in the US through a nationwide multimedia campaign: the Addiction Project.

The cable TV station is airing a 14-part documentary series, Addiction, that features family stories of addiction.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have teamed up with HBO to add scientific information to the series. The centerpiece documentary airs March 15. For the premiere weekend, HBO has opened its signal for local cable operators to air the film to customers who don't subscribe to the channel.

"HBO has a history of launching comprehensive public health campaigns," said John Hoffman, a producer at HBO. "The purpose of the campaign is to provide people who are experiencing this kind of struggle with perspective and concrete answers."

Grassroots organizations Faces and Voices of Recovery, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, and Join Together are bringing the project to major cities via their partnership and Web site AddictionAction.org. They are helping organize events, including advanced screenings that began in February, town meetings, and house parties in more than 500 US homes.

The campaign also has a political aspect to it, advocating for passage of the Sen. Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act, which would compel insurance companies to pay for mental health treatment as they would for physical health treatment.

"We're reaching out to public policymakers," said Tom Coderre, national field director for Faces and Voices of Recovery. "We know this is a brain disease, and it can be treated. Insurance companies have been able to use the stigma associated with the disease to discriminate against people who need help."

According to the HBO Addiction Web site, 23 million Americans are fighting addiction, but less than 10% seek help. The DVD set will also be available for purchase at a reduced price on March 13, and the film is accompanied by a book. The campaign will continue through September, which is National Recovery Month.

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