根据美国卫生及公共服务部（the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services）的统计，目前共有2,000万美国人正处于物质滥用的康复期。
A Market Worth Watching: Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Recently I wrote about the potential future demand for quit smoking products and services in China, the world’s largest consumer of tobacco, despite superficial government efforts to curtail consumption. Smoking cessation products and services have become big business in many other markets, and could become very big in China one day.
Judging by the American experience, another potentially huge future market in China may be specialized services to treat alcohol and drug abusers.
The recent untimely death of American music superstar Whitney Houston is a stark reminder that this deadly illness has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.
One 2010 estimate puts the number of Americans with a substance abuse or dependence problem at 22.1 million people, or 8.7% of the adult population. Of these, 15 million are dependent on alcohol but not drugs; 4.2 million on drugs but not alcohol; and 2.9 million on both. Drug abuse in this context includes both illegal drugs as well as habit-forming prescription drugs which are taken in excess.
Some 38 million American adults are defined as binge drinkers, which means they consume 8 drinks in a session four or more times a month.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts the number of Americans currently in recovery from substance abuse at 20 million.
All of the leading estimates point to a very substantial number of Americans who are struggling with this illness. For every one of them you can be sure there are a handful of family members, friends and colleagues who are also badly affected.
There are more than 17,000 specialized inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers in the U.S., many of which are privately owned and operated, charging premium fees often not covered by typical health care insurance. On average, 700,000 Americans are in treatment — inpatient or outpatient — on any given day.
It would be foolish to try to extrapolate the extent of China’s current substance abuse problem on the basis of American statistics; but it would be even more foolish to pretend the problem does not exist, or that it is not growing, in China.
Statistics on the extent of the problem in China are not as easy to come by as they are for the U.S., but it’s a safe assumption that it is a large and growing concern for health, transport, and law enforcement authorities, as well as families, spouses, parents, and companies.
I’ve been educated on the extent of this problem in the U.S. by a young American media entrepreneur, Jim Moorhead, who started a magazine to serve this niche about one year ago. (Full disclosure: Jim is my cousin, although I have no commercial interest in his venture.)
With a professional background in publishing and a personal story of overcoming drug and alcohol abuse, he knew there was an opportunity for a well designed and edited magazine, website and mobile app to address the needs of people in the process of recovery. Given his own experience, he was passionate about the mission as well as the business plan.
He raised US$700,000 from investors and started RENEW Magazine, along with the website www.reneweveryday.com. Treatment centers are a focal point of his audience and distribution network. Because many of those in treatment are relatively affluent consumers, the print and online versions have attracted advertising from a variety of sectors including watches, autos, etc.
The editorial team, like Jim, have direct personal experience with substance abuse and the process of successful recovery. A number of celebrities have been willing to share their stories, and the reaction from the treatment and medical communities has been very positive. Part of the editorial mission is to take away the shame and embarrassment of being in recovery, offering positive encouragement and support.
RENEW is a glossy magazine which bills itself as the only recovery lifestyle magazine. Apart from offering moral support and encouragement, contents include practical tips such as where to find a therapist, locations and timing of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, where to turn for help for a teenager in trouble, etc.
RENEW is a compelling example of how entrepreneurs can sometimes address problems which governments cannot solve entirely on their own, while creating a profitable enterprise in the process. A potential audience universe of 20-million plus is a substantial niche.
China is probably not ready for a Chinese edition of RENEW at this point in time, but it is definitely a subject matter and strategy worth paying attention to.