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Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin, has nearly quadrupled. In September, for the first time, the White House designated a Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. As part of this awareness week, President Obama called for expanding access to prevention and treatment services for opioid use disorders.
The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, calls for a wholesale change to the way we address substance use and addiction in our country by treating it as a health issue rather than a moral failing. The blueprint set forth in the report is comprehensive and multi-faceted, but the prominent theme that underlies its findings and recommendations is the importance of research in informing addiction policy, prevention and treatment. This recognition of the critical role that research should play in transforming addiction care will have a profound effect on improving access to treatment and reducing the stigma surrounding addiction that has long served as a barrier to effective prevention, treatment and policy.
The Surgeon General’s report calls for modernizing addiction treatment and integrating care with the rest of the health care system. The specific recommendations are based on strong evidence and, if enacted, will significantly improve treatment for the 40 million Americans suffering from a substance use problem. But, as the Surgeon General points out, “integration of substance use disorder care into general health care will not be possible without a workforce that is competently cross-educated and trained in all these areas.”
The new Surgeon General’s report, which presents a comprehensive public health approach to addressing the scourge of addiction in our society, is just the impetus our nation needs to finally implement a research-based rather than a punitive and moralistic approach to addiction care.
The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health was released today and shines a much needed spotlight on substance misuse and addiction and provides a long overdue call for significant changes to how we address this top public health problem. We applaud the Surgeon General for fully embracing addiction as a medical condition, a position Center on Addiction has long held and which is reflected in our mission to connect science with policy and practice to better the lives of all people impacted by substance use and addiction.