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Report: Addictions is a growing problem for hundreds of thousands of Israelis

Addictions is a growing problem for hundreds of thousands of Israelis, a new report by the Israel Center on Addiction submitted to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday reveals. The report is based on data from a survey conducted by the ICA's research department in conjunction with the iPanel research firm that included 3,300 respondents ages 18-70.

The last ICA report came out in 2018. In the five years since then, the new report reveals, the number of adult Israelis who struggle with addictions of one type or another has risen by 30%. The report found that some 15%, or 650,000 Israeli adults, are now struggling with addiction.

According to the report, 11.2% of Israelis suffer from behavioral addictions (sex, gambling, pornography, computer gaming) and 5.6% suffer from substance abuse, with the most common being alcohol (71%), ADD medication (9%), painkillers (7%), and anti-anxiety and/or sleep medications (7%).

The report also indicated that 14% of high school students age 18 and over reported drinking alcohol several times a month and on weekends, and 11% reported using cannabis on a weekly or monthly basis. Another 13% admitted to participating in illegal gambling several times this past year.

More than one-quarter (27%) of high school students age 18 and over reported watching pornography on a daily basis. A study the ICA conducted with Deloitte consultants found that addiction carries a direct cost to the Israeli economy of some 7 billion shekels ($2.08 billion) a year.

ICA founder and academic director Professor Shaul Lev-Ron said, "The report exposes Israeli society's soft underbelly and indicates the need for an immediate change in all factors pertaining to the addiction phenomenon. There is a need for a plan that can be implemented quickly to provide answers for those who need them."

ICA Director General Inbal Dor-Karbel said, "Nearly all developed countries have seen a rise in addiction after two years of COVID, so we expected a small rise, but we were nevertheless surprise from the data that showed that addiction is a bigger problem than we thought.

"Throughout the lockdowns we warned about the ramifications of the pandemic on social resilience, and individuals' ability to cope with the pressure and the loneliness they were experienced. The most vulnerable population is actually those who contribute the most to the economy – young people ages 18-35," Dor-Karbel noted.

Efrat Forsher