US Surgeon General Calls for Holistic Approach in Addiction Treatment
The US Surgeon General has issued the first report of its kind on the subject of substance abuse. In it, Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a direct call to action to stop what he has said is a “public health crisis of drug and alcohol addiction that is both underappreciated and undertreated.”
US Drug Use and Overdose Statistics
Dr. Murthy pointed out that the number of US deaths from drug overdoses reached 47,055 in 2014, which was a record number according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure represented a 6.5 percent increase over previous years.
The government has requested additional funds to address the serious issue of drug addiction. President Barack Obama has made a request for additional funding of US$ 1.1 billion to help combat the problem. Opioid painkiller abuse is of particular concern, with drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine being at the forefront of the public’s attention.
In 2015, the number of people who have reported either using illegal drugs or misusing prescription drugs has hit 27 million. Close to one-quarter of all adolescents and adults (66 million people) have reported engaging in an episode of binge drinking during the past month.
Early Intervention Important: Surgeon General
Dr. Murthy’s report calls for a holistic approach to taking on the issue of addiction. It should involve a number of entities and organizations, from policy makers and regulators to communities, schools and families. One of Dr. Murthy’s goals is to increase access to existing treatment programs and to expand the number of programs available.
His report also discussed the importance of early intervention in schools to teach children about the dangers of alcohol use. Dr. Murthy pointed out that if a young person has their first drink before they turn 15, they are four times more likely to develop an alcohol problem than if they postponed their first drink to after age 21.
Dr. Murthy’s model for his approach is the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on tobacco. At that time, approximately 42 percent of the US population smoked, but few people recognized the dangers of tobacco products. Through the work of the campaign, the public was made aware of the health consequences of smoking, and the current smoking rate is below 17 percent.