Finally, addiction in America is addressed by the Surgeon General! Wait; let’s take a step back for a minute. In 1964, the Surgeon General’s landmark report, “Smoking and Health,” shed light on the devastating effects of tobacco use. Now, more than 50 years later, there are still approximately 438,000 American deaths each year attributed to complications from smoking. However, it is estimated that approximately 795,000 lives have been saved, largely due to the awareness of smoking dangers that the Surgeon General’s report highlighted so long ago.
Now the Surgeon General is turning the spotlight on a different topic: the misuse of drugs and alcohol. In what is likely to become known as yet another landmark report, the Surgeon General has released “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.”
The Purpose of the Report
While prior Surgeon General reports may have touched on various health issues caused by substance abuse disorders, this report is the first to specifically address substance use disorders and the wider range of health problems and consequences related to alcohol and drug misuse in the United States.
With what goal? The executive summary states,
“Its aim is to galvanize the public, policymakers, and health care systems to make the most of these new opportunities so that the individual and public health consequences associated with alcohol and drug misuse can be addressed effectively. Only by doing so can individuals, their loved ones, and their communities be restored to full health and well-being.”
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, believes that the report could not have come at a better time in American history. She states: “It comes at a time when the public and policymakers are clamoring for guidance on how to address addiction. Our country faces not only a devastating opioid crisis and an epidemic of overdoses, but also increased mortality related directly or indirectly to alcohol misuse, as well as uncertainties about the health and safety consequences of increasing availability of marijuana.”
Key Findings Regarding Treatment and Addiction in America
While the report does not contain any bombshell revelations about drug use, it does contain the most up-to-date scientific research concerning the neurobiology of addiction and includes recommendations as to the most effective strategies for substance abuse treatment.
The report emphasizes the need for the American healthcare system to shift its perspective of addiction. Research has shown that addiction is a brain disorder, the result of real and measurable changes in brain chemistry and circuitry. Addiction is not simply the result of a moral lapse or weakness; rather, it is an illness.
Therefore, it must be approached from the standpoint of treating an illness. It must be treated with compassionate care. And it must be addressed with medical care based on solid scientific evidence.
The report recommends several key steps to improving substance abuse treatment. Some of these steps involve allocating sufficient funds and resources to the task, breaking down backward attitudes about the nature of addiction, and creating a more robust healthcare infrastructure for handling substance abuse treatment appropriately.
The Surgeon General recommends increased attention to substance misuse prevention programs; improved early intervention, treatment, and management programs; and enhanced recovery programs to help those suffering from addiction maintain sobriety and reclaim their lives.
Getting Substance Abuse Treatment Now
It is hoped that the Surgeon General’s new report on addiction in America will have a significant impact on U.S. substance abuse policy in the future. However, even now healthcare reforms are reshaping the way addiction is viewed and treated.
We’re Here to Help
If you need help to handle a substance abuse problem, that help is available now. Contact us today to begin your journey to wellness.