Overview of The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health

As seasoned addiction treatment and recovery specialists, the team here at Spearhead Lodge is painfully aware of the growing increase in individuals with a drug or alcohol addiction, as well as the drastic increase in opioid overdoses recently. However, the sheer magnitude of the problem is staggering.

shl_suregeon-general-overview-seo-blogEarlier this month, U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a comprehensive report titled “Facing Addiction in America – The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health”. In his report, Dr. Murthy discusses the prevalence of addiction and substance abuse occurrences, explains certain risk factors, and proposes areas where additional research and experimentation with treatment options may be needed.

The report cites several statistics that are hard to comprehend. Dr. Murthy states that there are 78 deaths each day as a result of opioid overdose. He also found that approximately 20.8 million Americans (7.8% of the U.S. population) have a substance use disorder, or as one article stated that amount is “approximately the same number of people with diabetes and 1.5 times the number of people with all cancers combined.”

Unfortunately, as Dr. Murthy cites, the vast majority of those 20-plus million individuals are not receiving treatment for their disorders. In fact, the statistics that he cites show that only about 10.4% of those individuals ever received treatment. As Dr. Murthy, as well as countless other addiction specialists believe, this is major shortcoming of the health care system.

The problems related to the lack of treatment, Dr. Murthy believes, may be related to the public’s understanding and opinion of substance abuse. As he explained in the report, “We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw – it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.” He continued to explain that while programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can help, more research needs to be done in relation to clinical treatment of substance abuse, especially in dealing with opioid addiction.

It was not only the human toll of substance abuse about which Dr. Murthy wrote, but also the economic toll.  He stated that “[a]lcohol misuse, illicit drug use, misuse of medications, and substance use disorders are estimated to cost the United States more than $400 billion” due to a variety of factors including health care costs, law enforcement and criminal justice costs, loss of productivity and other factors — much of which is ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

In a time where opioid-related deaths are in the news almost daily, competing with stories on the rising cost of health care, Dr. Murthy’s report provides timely insight and promises to help bring these issues to light.

If you, or someone that you care about, is struggling with addiction, whether it is to opioids, alcohol, or another substance, please contact our Admissions team at (866) 905-4550. We can help you or your loved one discover a life of permanent sobriety.