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Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO

Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction: What does it mean?

November 17, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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Addiction is one of the nation’s most pressing health concerns. One in seven Americans experience an addiction in their lifetime, and even more will misuse substances. Addiction is a chronic disease that puts a person at risk for other illnesses including HIV, cancer and heart disease. And, addiction costs our nation $442 billion annually in health care costs, lost productivity and criminal justice costs. This amounts to 2.5% of our GDP, and is almost as much as the biggest corporation, Walmart, makes annually.

Yet, as the report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health released today notes, addictions and substance misuse have not been regarded equitably to other health conditions.

Behavioral health providers have long been on the front lines, offering an array of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery supports. We’ve known for a while now that tens of thousands of Americans are dying from the disease of addiction, and the frustrating part about it is – we know how to treat it.

Today, I joined Dr. Oz; Patrick Kennedy; and Marla Weston, CEO of the American Nurses Association, in a letter to President-Elect Trump on the report, noting, “With millions of American lives on the line, how we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America.”

The release of the report is an opportunity for us to engage with community members outside of our usual networks. The report says again and again a truth we know all too well – these barriers exist because our society still has a well-worn path of thinking of and treating addiction as a social or moral problem instead of a health problem. You know what works in preventing, treating and supporting people in recovery from addiction – and what stops progress. I invite you to share your expertise and lend your voice to the conversation as part of the report’s release.

We know that we must engage our colleagues in primary care to pay attention to substance misuse and intervene early – and to strengthen our relationships to ensure effective referrals.

We must continue to advocate for addiction to receive the same focus, coverage and determination that Americans give to diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

Learn effective ways to share stories on addiction and connect with the media with our toolkit on being a part of the conversation on the report.

We’ll be following up with further analysis of the report’s implications for behavioral health policy and practice. Stay tuned for more on action items from the report in our newsletters, on webinars and at the 2017 National Council Conference. And we want to hear your thoughts on the report and what it means to you.

Everyone has a role to play in changing the conversation about substance misuse to improve the health, safety, and well-being of individuals and communities across our nation. What will you do?

PS – Join the conversation on social media with the hashtags #FacingAddiction and #BH365.