More than 20 million Americans struggle with some type of substance use disorder, according to a landmark report on alcohol, drugs, and health released last week by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D.
The roughly 400-page document "Facing Addiction in America," marks the first time a surgeon general has approached drug addiction as a disease the nation can address, according to HuffPo.
In it, Dr. Murthy frames substance abuse as an illness, and calls for addiction treatment via routine doctors' visits, harm reduction strategies such as access to the overdose antidote naloxone, and coverage of treatment under the Affordable Care Act (AHA). Murthy also recommends interventions for young people, which evidence shows is effective.
"Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it's one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency," Murthy told HuffPo.
"I'm calling for a cultural change in how we think about addiction. For far too long people have thought about addiction as a character flaw or a moral failing," he continued.
By some accounts, drug abuse kills 50,000 people a year in the U.S. According to the surgeon general's report, in 2014 alone, 20,000 people died from overdoses due to alcohol, cocaine or prescription drugs, and nearly 30,000 people died from an overdose of opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers.
Last year, approximately 12.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription drugs, according to HuffPo.
"The information demonstrates clearly the need to invest more dollars into treatment and recovery," Richard Rosenthal, medical director of the Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System, told ABC News.
"One in 10 people get any kind of treatment for their addiction, which is nuts," he added.
(h/t Huffington Post)
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