Surgeon General Calls for Focus on Addiction as Disease

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A new federal report released Thursday calls for a shift in the way America addresses drug addiction, treating the problem as a disease, not a “moral failing.” The report found that one in seven Americans will face addiction, reports USA Today. Only 10% of those now addicted receive treatment. It is the first report from a U.S. surgeon general dedicated to substance addiction, raising the profile of the widespread epidemic and advocating proven treatment options. An American dies every 19 minutes from opioid or heroin overdose alone, and the report spells out the cost of substance abuse. The economic impact of drug and alcohol misuse and addiction amounts to $442 billion each year — topping diabetes at $245 billion, said Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general.

Every $1 invested in viable treatment options for substance use disorders saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs, Murthy said. That’s one reason why the report advocates for a paradigm shift on addiction that removes the stigma from addiction, creating more patients and less prisoners. He said addiction should be treated as a chronic disease, not “a character flaw or a moral failing.” Nearly 21 million Americans struggle with substance addictions, according to the report. One bright spot has been the Affordable Care Act, which opened up 20 million to receive health insurance and increased access to addiction treatment, Murthy said. President-elect Trump and Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal the act.

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