- U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a landmark report Thursday on drug and alcohol misuse in the country. This is the first time a Surgeon General report has been dedicated to this issue.
- Addiction is "one of America's most pressing public health concerns," Murthy says. "The way we address this crisis is a test for America."
- Approximately 21 million people in the U.S. are suffering from substance misuse disorders, but only 1 in 10 receive treatment, according to the announcement.
The report contains five different detailed chapters and concludes adoption of an evidence-based public health approach for treatment and recovery is needed to address addiction in the U.S., stating such an approach must be made a "top public health priority."
"Such an approach can prevent substance initiation or escalation from use to a disorder, and thus reduce the number of people suffering with addiction; it can shorten the duration of illness for sufferers; and it can reduce the number of substance-related deaths," the report says.
What I never imagined is that the majority of my time would be spent thinking about substance abuse disorders. #Facing Addiction (2/2)— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) November 17, 2016
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell noted one of the report's most important findings is that addiction is a chronic neurological disorder. With this new information, healthcare providers can come up with better strategies to help reduce the number of people with the disorder as well as the associated costs and the spike in use of emergency departments. In New Jersey hospitals, 47% of ED visits, which increased by more 117,000 patients from 2014 to 2015, involved patients with diagnosed mental health or substance use disorders.
"Efforts are needed to support integrating screening, assessments, interventions, use of medications, and care coordination between general health systems and specialty substance use disorder treatment programs or services," the report stated, adding health IT is helping to coordination care and communication.
The alarmingly common use of perhaps the most abused drug class in the country today - opioids - has been a major driver of recent efforts from the government to prevent substance substance misuse. Fair Health reported earlier this year medical services or procedures among the privately-insured with an opioid dependence diagnosis increased 3,203% from 2007 to 2014.
In addition, Murthy pointed out "many more people now die from alcohol and drug overdoses each year than are killed in automobile accidents." He added almost 30,000 people died due to heroin or prescription opioid overdoses in 2014, and about another 20,000 people died from unintentional overdoses of alcohol, cocaine, or non-opioid prescription drugs.