Facing Addiction in America

facing addiction

On November 17, 2016, the Surgeon General of the United States issued a report, Facing Addiction in America. The 400 plus page report is a fascinating read that draws on the latest research and data to describe the current opioid crisis, the science behind addiction and the best prospects for treatment and prevention.

Landmark report by Surgeon General calls drug crisis a moral test for America

Consider these facts:

Seventy-eight people die of an opiod overdose each day in our country.

Only 20% of people who need opiod use treatment are getting treatment.

The estimated cost to the country of opiod drug abuse is $193 billion a year.

Heroin overdoses tripled between 2010 to 2014. Heroin overdoses are 500% higher than they were in 2014. Overdoses were more than five times higher in 2014 (10,574) than ten years before in 2004 (1,878).

“How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation willing to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss? Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another? Fifty years ago, the landmark Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of smoking began a half century of work to end the tobacco epidemic and saved millions of lives. With The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, I am issuing a new call to action to end the public health crisis of addiction. Please join me in taking the actions outlined in this Report and in helping ensure that all Americans can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”

-Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. Vice Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service Surgeon General

The chapter on the science of addiction is fascinating and makes the case for addiction and substance misuse to be largely the result of disease and not character flaw. (More on this in a later post.)

You can download the report here:

Facing Addiction in America

While the report largely ignores the role EMS can play in the fight against the opiod epidemic, I found this statement compelling and can apply to our treatment of these patients we see most everyday.

“This Report calls on a range of stakeholder groups to do their part to change the culture, attitudes, and practices around substance use and to keep the conversation going until this goal is met. Prejudice and discrimination have created many of the challenges that plague the substance use disorder treatment field. These factors can have a profound influence on individuals’ willingness to talk to their health care professional about their substance use concerns; to seek or access treatment services; and to be open with friends, family, and coworkers about their treatment and recovery needs. Changing the culture is an essential piece of lasting reforms, creating a society in which:

* People who need help feel comfortable seeking it;

* There is “no wrong door” for accessing health services;

* Communities are willing to invest in prevention services, knowing that such investment pays off over the long term, with wide-ranging benefits for everyone;

* Health care professionals treat substance use disorders with the same level of compassion and care as they would any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or heart disease;

*People are celebrated for their efforts to get well and for their steps in recovery; and

* Everyone knows that their care and support can make a meaningful difference in someone’s recovery.

In addition to facilitating such a mindset, community leaders can work together to mobilize the capacities of health care organizations, social service organizations, educational systems, community based organizations, government health agencies, religious institutions, law enforcement, local businesses, researchers, and other public, private, and voluntary entities that impact public health. Everyone has a role to play in addressing substance misuse and substance use disorders and in changing the conversation around substance use, to improve the health, safety, and well-being of individuals and communities across our nation.”

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