Good News Over Two Hundred Years in the Making

Addiction treatment received a very public thumbs up yesterday, and professionals all over the world just couldn’t be happier. In a landmark announcement, Surgeon General Vivek Murphy called for sweeping changes in how addiction is perceived and treated in the Unites States. And although it’s a strange case of better late than never, this report could someday save thousands of lives.

The numbers alone amount to a paradigm shift. According to the report, one in seven Americans develop a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives. The report also acknowledged the opioid overdose epidemic in the, stating that 78 people die from painkillers every day in the United States. And when the accountants started counting money, they came up with another startling number – the $450 billion a year that drugs and alcohol cost Americans every year.

The Necessity of Alcohol and Drug Treatment

The announcement also gave drug rehab programs a shot in the arm. Yeah, I said shot in the arm in an addiction blog, what about it? Anyway, Dr Murphy said that only about ten percent of persons with a substance use disorder actually receive addiction treatment. That alone was enough to make our top medical official say that addiction “must be treated with skill, urgency, and compassion.”

Just as importantly, the Dr. Murphy insisted that we must view addiction as a chronic illness, not a moral failing. This undeniable reality is backed up with another (un)surprising number. The report concluded that from 40 to 70 percent of a person’s risk for developing an addiction problem is genetic. This conclusion might be the slam dunk addiction professionals everywhere have been begging for.

A Treatable Condition

The numbers are convincing enough, but this piece of analysis should be the final blow for the prevailing misconception about addiction – that it’s a character flaw. This view is far worse than simply incorrect; it’s positively lethal. This view contributes to death thousands of suffering addicts each year. Not to mention the destruction of so many families.

Addiction to alcohol and drugs is a medical condition. And like other such conditions, addiction is absolutely treatable. It’s about time we acknowledge that as a nation. The culture change can’t happen fast enough, but with the Surgeon General’s office on board, there are better days ahead for addicts and addiction treatment.