In a new report on the state of substance abuse in the U.S., Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that addiction should no longer be treated as a character flaw.
US Surgeon's Report
The report, which was released at a time of uncertainty about how the Trump administration will deal with substance abuse and misuse, offered recommendations for the medical community, law enforcement, elected officials and the public to improve how addiction is treated.
Murthy described the report Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health as a new call to action. It was modeled on the 1964 report of the surgeon general on smoking and health that first associated cigarette smoking and cancer, which led to a successful national campaign against tobacco use.
A Public Health Crisis
More than 200,000 deaths are attributed to prescription painkillers since 1999. Addiction has raised concerns over the past years as drug overdoses surpassed vehicular accident as cause of death, the surge being primarily driven by opioid epidemic.
Murthy described substance misuse and substance-use disorders as among the most pressing public health crises today and said that the report aims to transform the society's concept on substance use problems.
Addiction By The Number
The report shows that about 21 million people in the U.S. battle substance abuse, which is higher compared with the number of people with cancer.
Figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that from 1999, opioid-related deaths almost quadrupled, and more than 165,000 deaths have been attributed to prescription opioid overdoses.
A new study also shows how opioid problem influences the younger generation, as the number of children and teenagers in the country poisoned by opioid painkillers have more than doubled over the past 16 years.
Despite the prevalence of addiction, the report claims that only 10 percent receive treatment.
Addiction Is A Chronic Illness
Murthy said that addiction is a chronic illness that needs to be approached using the same compassion and skills used in other chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Murthy said that America's view of addiction has made it difficult for those suffering from substance-use disorder to get help. Murthy said that Americans has viewed addiction as a moral failing for too long.
"This unfortunate stigma has created an added burden of shame that has made people with substance-use disorders less likely to come forward and seek help," Murthy said.