I met U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy last week in Los Angeles during the historic release of his report Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. When I introduced myself as part of the Facing Addiction team, he put a hand on each of my shoulders and said he was honored to work with us and that our organization is doing really good work.
Dr. Murthy is America’s top doc and he’s right. Facing Addiction is doing great work; I too am honored to work for an organization with such heart for getting America’s attention around the issue of solving the addiction crisis in this country.
What happens now?
I love this paragraph from Dr. Murthy’s preface in the report:
How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation wiling to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss? Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another?
During this Thanksgiving Week, I wonder if we will remember our obligation to those suffering with, or touched by, addiction. Consider these facts reported by Facing Addiction’s co-founder Greg Williams in his recent Huffington Post blog:
- Nearly 21 million people suffer from a substance use disorder but only one in 10
receives treatment—that’s more than one and a half times the number of people who have cancer!
- In 2015, substance use disorders affected 21 million Americans—approximately one in 12 adults and adolescents.
- Implementation of evidence-based interventions around substance use disorder can have a benefit of more than $58 for every dollar spent.
- Substance misuse costs society an estimated $442 billion each year in terms of lost productivity, healthcare costs and criminal justice costs.
Greg writes, “If every person in every community in America would stand up to addiction as they stand up to other major health issues, we would forever shift the way addiction is looked upon in this country. It’s our duty to take this historic moment and make it an enduring turning point for our children and generations to come.”
Indeed, there are walks, runs, ice bucket challenges and all kinds of other awareness-raising gestures for virtually every other health issue with critical needs. Where does addiction fall in the list of critical needs?
Alcohol- and drug-related deaths now surpass car accidents as the number one killer in the nation. When will we be sick and tired of these dubious distinctions?
The time is now. It’s time to join with the Surgeon General and say we’re ready to do whatever our hands and feet, hearts and minds can do.
We’ve seen reports from the Surgeon General’s office that have a major impact on societal change. Fifty years ago, the Surgeon General issued a report on the dangers of smoking and a call to end the tobacco epidemic gripping the nation.
Dr. Murthy issued a similar call to action last Thursday from the Paramount Theater in LA. Now his office is calling for an end to the public health crisis of addiction.
It’s time. Let’s make sure social media is our friend when it comes to spreading the news.