On Thursday, November 17, 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy published a landmark report on a health crisis affecting every community in our country. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health is a comprehensive review of the science of substance use, misuse, and disorders. The report is available online at https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov.
NEARLY 21 MILLION PEOPLE IN AMERICA HAVE A SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER involving alcohol or drugs, an astonishing figure that is COMPARABLE TO THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY WITH DIABETES AND HIGHER THAN THE TOTAL NUMBER OF AMERICANS SUFFERING FROM ALL CANCERS COMBINED. But in spite of the massive scope of this problem, ONLY 1 IN 10 PEOPLE WITH A SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER RECEIVES TREATMENT.
The societal cost of alcohol misuse is $249 billion, and for illicit drug use it is $193 billion. What we cannot quantify is the human toll on individuals, families, and communities affected not only by addiction, but also by alcohol and drug-related crime, violence, abuse, and child neglect.
Though this challenge is daunting, there is much reason to be hopeful. That’s because we know how to solve the problem. We know that prevention works, treatment is effective, and recovery is possible for everyone. We know that we cannot incarcerate our way out of this situation; instead, we need to apply an evidence-based public health approach that brings together all sectors of our society to end this crisis. And we know that addiction is not a moral failing. It is a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency, and compassion.
To mark the launch of the report, the Office of the Surgeon General and the Facing Addiction coalition hosted “Facing Addiction in America, A National Summit.” Please view the podcast of this event from the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles. The event featured a series of conversations with individuals affected by the crisis, experts in the field, and leaders who are making a difference.
Previous reports of the Surgeon General, including those on tobacco (1964), AIDS (1987), and mental health (1999), have helped to create understanding and urgency to address critical public health challenges. Building on this heritage, The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health will equip clinicians, policymakers, law enforcement, community leaders, and families with the evidence and tools they need to take action.
Together, we can prevent addiction and create hope for millions of people in treatment and recovery. When we stop judging, we can start helping.