2016 was a historic year for addiction policy. In the face of a devastating opioid epidemic that shows little signs of abating, the federal government engaged in multiple efforts to change our national tone and approach toward addiction. There has been great progress in improving our collective understanding of addiction as a disease instead of a moral failing. This is reflected in the work of lawmakers who have adopted public health approaches in lieu of punitive criminal justice responses.
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.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker is working to end mass incarceration and promoting alternatives to incarceration for people with addiction. With two terms as “Supermayor” of Newark, New Jersey, Sen. Booker has a wealth of experience investing in fighting crime and reducing poverty for a city with a reputation for criminal activity, corruption and drug use. He provides some important insights from his real life experiences.
As part of Center on Addiction's Speaker Series, in which leading experts present their research and insights, Herbert D. Kleber, MD, Founder and Director Emeritus of the Division on Substance Abuse at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, gave an in-depth presentation on marijuana and the effects of legalization. We spoke with Dr. Kleber to hear a little bit more about his take on marijuana legalization, edibles and how marijuana impacts the brain.
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