The current Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a report a few weeks ago entitled Facing Addiction in America. The report outlined where America currently stands in its fight against drug addiction and makes some suggestions for what we can do moving forward. It is the first report on drug addiction in this country to be released by the office of the Surgeon General and it is already being compared to the landmark 1964 report released by then-Surgeon General Luther Terry, on the effects of smoking.
The importance of Luther Terry’s report cannot be overstated, as they explained to an entirely unaware nation the negative health effects that smoking tobacco could have on an individual and in doing so, they shifted the public opinion away from the acceptance of smoking. It is estimated that the release of his report saved 8 million people from premature deaths due to tobacco usage, and the hope is that Facing Addiction in America will have a similar impact.
Facing Addiction in America comes at a time when this country is very much so at a crossroads in its fight against drug addiction. We are currently moving away from incarceration as a means to rehabilitate non-violent drug offenders. We have legalized medical marijuana and legalized recreational usage in a number of states. We have reached an all time high in opioid overdoses and have seen an influx of legal synthetic drugs sweep the nation. Changes to the health insurance system have allowed many people to receive drug treatment that never would have been able to in this past and with all of this going on, the Surgeon General’s report gives some direction to a nation poised to make a change, but unsure of what direction it needs to be in.
For one, Facing Addiction in America represents a complete departure from the ‘Just Say No” agenda that every administration has adopted since the mid-80s, as it gives real cadence to the idea that addiction is a not a moral failing but a disease that causes uncontrollable compulsions towards destructive behaviors. While most people in this country were probably already aware of that, having this idea backed by the Surgeon General of the United States will go a long way in dispelling the lingering myths surrounding addiction and, in turn, hopefully allow for further meaningful discussion to take place.
In fact, the report actually calls for a shift away from language that propagates the notion that addiction is a disease of choice and asks that we move towards more medically and scientifically backed terms, such as looking at the disease of addiction as a proper disease, one that the person afflicted did not ask to have. This has been a major hurdle in dealing with addiction in this country in the past because many people, including highly educated and respected individuals, believed that the disease model of addiction was a myth and an excuse. They believed that addicts had a choice in the matter and didn’t understand that even before drugs or alcohol were introduced into their system they suffered from an illness. By asking the nation to shift its focus away from blaming and towards understanding, this report is setting a precedent for how we should view addiction in this country going forward.
Some of the findings of the report are shocking to the say the least and might be eye opening for a country somewhat baffled at the over 50,000 people that died from opioid overdoses last year. The report found that more people are currently abusing opioids then smoking cigarettes and that more people suffer from substance abuse disorder than cancer. These findings are incredible because they show just how largely this country has been affected by drug addiction and how little our War on Drugs has done to help the problem.
The report also found that substance abuse costs the United States taxpayer $420 billions every year. This number is derived from the loss of productivity that occurs due to drug and alcohol abuse, the increase in health care costs, incarceration and policing. To put this into perspective, only $30.6 billion was allocated towards preventative measures and education in the federal budget. What the report shows is that by not allocating more funding towards prevention and education, we are actually costing the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars every year that could be saved if we would shift our spending focus towards helping rather than punishing.
One of the most promising aspects of the report is the call for a move in policy towards rehabilitation and education rather than punishment and incarceration. This call to action is in line with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that Congress passed this summer and if this is taken seriously, then we will see a dramatic change in this country. The days where our prison system is filled to capacity with non-violent drug offenders may become a thing of the past and many individuals who have gotten trapped in a system that did not have their best interests in mind may get another lease on life.
It is hard to say for certain what this report means for addiction in the United States in the long term, but it is another promising step in the right direction. It appears that we have finally discovered just how much drug addiction is affecting this nation and in turn, we have answered the call and decided to finally face the problem.
Seeking Treatment For Substance Abuse Disorder
If you find that when you try to stop drinking or using drugs you cannot, then you may need to seek treatment for your addiction. It is normal to have misgivings about going away for treatment and Dream Center for Recovery understands your fears. Our trained staff is here to help you through the process of early recovery and show you the way to a happy long-term sobriety. So call us today at 1-877-978-3148.