~ Legal Action Center, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and Treatment Research Institute Issue Joint Statement in Support of Identified Solutions~
NEW YORK, N.Y. – November 17, 2016 – Released today, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health determined that alcohol and drug misuse, substance use disorders and addiction are the most pressing public health concern facing America. The release of today’s landmark report marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders.
We applaud the Surgeon General’s recommendations to take a comprehensive, public health approach to how our nation addresses drug and alcohol misuse and substance use disorders. Our hope is that this report will have a profound impact on public attitudes, policy and practice, much as the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health had on smoking-related policies and attitudes when it was first released in 1964.
The report addresses alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drug misuse, with chapters dedicated to neurobiology, prevention, treatment, recovery, health systems integration and recommendations for the future. It provides an in-depth look at the science of substance misuse and addiction, calls for a cultural shift in the way Americans talk about the issue, and recommends actions we can all take collectively to prevent and treat these conditions, and promote recovery.
We strongly affirm the Surgeon General’s emphasis on the importance of preventing and addressing substance use early in adolescence. Youth who use alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder later in life, compared to those who have their first drink at age 21 or older. “Preventing or even simply delaying young people from trying substances is important to reducing the likelihood of a use disorder later in life,” said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
We echo the call for the expansion of substance use disorder treatment and its integration within health care to provide scientifically-proven treatments to larger number of people. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010 should make it possible for more people to get the services they need. Yet for reasons related to stigma, discrimination, access and reimbursement, the majority of people who need help do not receive it.
The Surgeon General’s report is being issued at a time when our nation faces a critical opportunity to accelerate significant and lasting change in the way substance use disorders are perceived and managed. We are in the throes of a national opioid epidemic. It is fueling 129 overdose-related drug deaths every day and has made drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death in our country. Misuse of substances and substance use disorders is estimated to cost our society $442 billion each year in health care costs, lost productivity and criminal justice costs. There is a strong scientific, health, justice, economic, and moral case for addressing substance use disorders with a public health model.
We are encouraged by the strong recommendations in the report to strengthen our treatment infrastructure and to identify strategies to reduce the disproportionate number of incarcerated individuals who are diagnosed with substance use disorders. Changing how we address addiction will simultaneously alleviate numerous other public health and social welfare challenges.
As four of the leading non-profit organizations in the country representing a collective 122 years of experience in the addiction field, we are committed to working collaboratively to ensure that the report issued by the Surgeon General has a lasting impact on policies and treatment services, while providing meaningful help to the millions of families currently struggling with substance use disorders throughout the country.
The calls to action within the Surgeon General’s report are consistent with the work already being done by our four organizations: identifying and implementing effective prevention and treatment programs; improving prevention; integrating treatment for addiction into mainstream medical care; increasing access to treatment through enforcement of the parity law; and conducting research to build a public health approach to substance use disorders. We look forward to working with the Surgeon General and others to ensure that these key areas of focus remain a priority in the coming years and help to redefine how we prevent, treat and manage substance use disorders in the United States.
It is our hope that the Surgeon General’s report will serve as a springboard for constructive, health-promoting initiatives in the next Administration, as well as on Capitol Hill and across the states. The report is a timely call to action as policy makers, the medical community, public health officials, law enforcement, families and addiction advocates struggle to address the leading cause of illness and accidental death in our country.
“We have the opportunity to transform lives and strengthen communities by addressing our country’s addiction crisis,” said Dr. Murthy. “There could not be a more important time for us to act.”
To read the Surgeon General’s report in its entirety please visit, https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov.
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