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Surgeon General issues landmark report on alcohol, drugs and health



November 23, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report last week calling drug and alcohol addiction a public health crisis that is underappreciated and undertreated. Nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all cancers combined – suffer from substance use disorders. 

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D.,  said he hopes that his report on drug and alcohol will galvanize work on the issue much like the groundswell of action that followed  the Surgeon General's landmark report on smoking some 50 years ago.

 “Alcohol and drug addiction take an enormous toll on individuals, families, and communities,” said Dr. Murthy, “Most Americans know someone who has been touched by an alcohol or a drug use disorder. Yet 90 percent of people with a substance use disorder are not getting treatment. That has to change.”

The report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Healthmarks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders. The report addresses alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drug misuse, with chapters dedicated to neurobiology, prevention, treatment, recovery, health systems integration and recommendations for the future. It provides an in-depth look at the science of substance use disorders and addiction, calls for a cultural shift in the way Americans talk about the issue. The report also recommends actions we can take to prevent and treat these conditions, and promote recovery.

One of the findings of this report is that substance use disorder treatment in the United States remains largely separate from the rest of health care and serves only a fraction of those in need of treatment. One in seven people in the U.S. is expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. Yet only 1 in 10 of those suffering from these disorders receives treatment.

“The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health provides a roadmap for working together to move our efforts forward,” said Kana Enomoto, principal deputy administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “I hope all who read it will be inspired to take action to stem the rising tide of this public health crisis and reduce the impact of substance misuse and addiction on individuals, communities, and our nation.”

The report makes clear that substance misuse – which includes use of a substance in any way that can cause harm to oneself or others – is an underappreciated but critical public health challenge that can lead to substance use disorders, such as addiction. The report also points out that adolescents and young adults are particularly at risk.

 “It’s time to change how we view addiction,” said Dr. Murthy. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”

Click here to see the full report.

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