NEW YORK, N.Y. – September 24, 2018 – Released late last week, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids, calls for a cultural shift in the national conversation surrounding the opioid crisis. The new report is U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams’ latest update on opioid addiction and provides the newest data on prevalence of opioid misuse, opioid use disorder and overdoses. It brings forth recommendations and actions that can help prevent and treat opioid misuse, while promoting recovery for those who are struggling with opioid addiction.
The Surgeon General also released a digital postcard, highlighting tangible actions that all Americans can take to raise awareness, prevent opioid misuse and reduce overdose deaths. These include urging companies to reduce work-related injuries that could lead to opioid misuse, and encouraging family members to carry naloxone and be trained on how to use it. “Be supportive (not judgmental) if a loved one has a problem,” the report advises.
“We applaud the Surgeon General’s recommendations to take a more comprehensive, nonjudgmental, public health approach to how our nation views and addresses substance use disorders – and specifically opioid addiction,” said Fred Muench, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Our hope is that this report will have a profound impact on public attitudes, policy and practice, so we can collectively be more prepared to help families address opioid use disorders, while continuing the progress we have made to eradicate the stigma associated with addiction.”
In the preface to the report, Surgeon General Adams tells his own family’s story of dealing with addiction. “Addiction is a brain disease that touches families across America – even my own,” said Adams. “We need to work together to put an end to stigma. My younger brother has struggled with this disease, which started with untreated depression leading to opioid pain reliever misuse. Like many with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder conditions, my brother has cycled in and out of incarceration. I tell my family’s story because far too many are facing the same worries for their loved ones. We all ask the same question: How can I contribute to ending the opioid crisis and helping those suffering with addiction?”
According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths in 2017 increased by almost 10 percent – claiming the lives of more than 70,000 Americans. Nearly 48,000 of those were opioid overdose deaths, with the sharpest increase occurring among deaths related to illicitly made fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids).
Despite the fact that effective treatment for opioid use disorder exists, only about one in four people with this disorder receive any type of treatment. Yet for a variety of reasons, including stigma, inability to access or afford care or refusal to stop misusing opioids, a treatment gap remains. In addition, the existing healthcare workforce is understaffed, often lacks the necessary training and has been slow to implement medicated-assisted treatment, as well as prevention, early identification, and other evidenced-based recommendations.
“There’s never been a more urgent need for resources to help support and educate parents and caregivers who are struggling with this disease within their own families. They need evidence-based resources and support, just like parents of adolescents and young adults who are dealing with other illnesses,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, Chief Policy Officer for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Parents are their child’s greatest advocate. Let’s give them the tools they need to respond to and effectively intervene in early use, ensuring that families are and can be part of the solution.”