One out of every seven Israelis suffers from some form of addiction, according to a survey released on Tuesday by the Israel Center on Addiction. Over the past five years, since the last time it was measured, addiction to sex and pornography has increased by 34 percent and addiction to drugs, mostly marijuana, and prescription medicines is up by 15 percent.
The report from the addiction center estimates that almost 15 percent of Israelis suffer from addiction, and over 90 percent of them do not ask for treatment. In 2018, the center estimated the rate of addiction at about 10 percent.
The new report is based on an internet survey that included some 3,300 respondents, who were a representative sample of the adult population in Israel aged 18 to 70.
The data reveal that about a fifth of those who are addicted are young, up to age 35. Except for this report, no other data exist on the number of people addicted in Israel and the treatment of the matter is based only on estimates. The government program for treatment of addiction that was approved a few weeks ago is supposed to meet this challenge too.
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The survey found that 11.2 percent of those addicted suffer some form of behavioral addiction – sex, gambling, pornography or computer games. At the top of the list of addictive materials was alcohol, 71 percent, followed by marijuana, 27 percent, and drugs for treating ADHD, 9 percent.
In comparison to the 2018 survey, marijuana addiction had increased in the latest survey by almost 50 percent and alcohol addiction by about 25 percent. The cost of addiction to the Israeli economy is estimated at some 7 billion shekels (over $2 billion) a year, said the authors of the report.
In early May, Haaretz reported that following opposition from the country’s four major health care services providers, senior officials in the Health Ministry will not transfer full responsibility for the medical treatment of addiction to the HMOs, in spite of the recommendations of government experts and addiction treatment organizations on the issue.
An internal Health Ministry committee stated that “the time is not ripe” to implement the change, which has been under discussion for years. The HMOs justified their opposition for budgetary reasons, warning of the harm to other services provided to other mental health patients.
Some of the Health Ministry’s solutions – including developing new government–funded treatments through the HMOs – have entered the implementation track and are expected to begin operating in about another three years, said Prof. Shaul Lev-Ran, founder and academic director of the Israel Center on Addiction.
He warned, however, that this is too long to wait and that in the meantime many new people will join the circle of addiction and more families will pay a heavy price. The center’s report concluded that what is needed is an action plan that can be implemented quickly, he added.