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Surgeon General Releases Report on Addiction; More than 20 Million Struggling Across the US

The statistics surrounding America’s addiction epidemic are changing, as noted today in a report issued by the US Surgeon General.

The report on drugs, alcohol, and health, entitled “Facing Addiction in America,” is the first of its kind. A comprehensive analysis of our country’s substance use and subsequent health concerns, the substantial text provides chilling insight into the crisis that we are facing as a nation. It is the only Surgeon General report to focus solely on the topic of addiction and its consequences.

In 2015, 27.1 million people admitted to being current users of illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs, according to the report. This resulted in 47,055 overdose deaths taking place in the preceding year. This figure represents more overdoses than any year on record.

The Surgeon General, Dr. Viviek Murthy, states that 1 in 7 US residents will face substance addiction of some type within their lifetime. Research reveals that an American dies every 19 minutes from an opioid or heroin overdose.

The statistics surrounding overdoses and Americans struggling with addiction have skyrocketed in recent times. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that in regard to prescription drugs, the number of overdoses has increased tremendously, with a 2.8-fold increase in reported deaths from 2001 to 2014.

The report goes on to issue a call to action, declaring that, “embedding prevention, treatment, and recovery services into the larger health care system will increase access to care, improve quality of services, and produce improved outcomes for countless Americans.”

The shift in focus toward treatment and prevention carries multiple forms of motivation. The Surgeon General has issued a rallying call to the public, as the disease of addiction continues to affect families and individuals across the map, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or other factors.

It is an epidemic that has swept across a nation.

“It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate, and it’s one that’s taking an extraordinary toll on our communities across the country,” said Dr. Murthy.

Looking to the Future

As we move into the future, the report notes, there is significant change that must happen in order to tackle this mounting crisis of public health.

“Facing Addiction” suggests that our renewed approach to addiction must consist of several things:

  • Willingness to speak to children earlier and openly about the topic of addiction
  • Increased availability of treatment programs and aftercare
  • Treatment of addiction as a chronic illness, with effective relapse protocol
  • Implementation of community-based prevention programs
  • Increased commitment to continuity of care

A small sample of the report, these suggestions are not merely suggestions—they are absolutely vital to the health of our nation. In approaching this crisis, awareness and activism must be cultivated, and the issue at hand must be handled with compassion and commitment to creating better outcomes for all individuals whom are affected both directly and indirectly by addiction.

Aptly stated by the Surgeon General in his introduction to these new findings, “Above all, we can never forget that the faces of substance use disorders are real people. They are a beloved family member, a friend, a colleague, and ourselves.”

Read the report in its entirety here.


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