From Demon to Disease: Bill Moyers Helps Change Public Perceptions of Substance Abuse

Evaluation of a public television series on addiction and recovery

The Educational Broadcasting Corporation, New York, produced a five-hour Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series on addiction and recovery hosted by Bill Moyers.

The National Opinion Research Center Chicago, conducted a telephone survey to evaluate the effect of the series on viewers' attitudes about addiction and recovery.

Key Results

  • "Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home," a five-hour series, was broadcast over three consecutive nights, March 29–31, 1998. The series covered tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs in five segments:

    • Some 12 million people saw at least a part of the series over the three nights.
  • A national 1-800 hotline telephone number and local hotline numbers broadcast with the series received more than 2,656 calls for help in the week of the telecast.

  • A PBS telephone survey that measured the impact of the broadcast found that 80 percent of respondents reported they were more aware of possible solutions to addiction as a result of seeing the series.

Key Findings

  • The principal investigator reported the following findings:

    • The five segments were rated good or excellent in quality by 85 percent to 91 percent of the viewers.
    • Viewers proved informed and even sophisticated in their understanding of aspects of addiction even before the series ran, and their views changed somewhat after the broadcast.
    • Viewer support for addiction treatment rose after the broadcast.