5 Takeaways from the Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs and health in America

On November 17, 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services released “Facing Addiction in America”, the Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health. This report lays out the facts about how addiction affects our country as well as what can be done to move forward. If you can’t read the 500-page report, check out our five takeaways:

1. Both the biology and consequences of addiction are REAL

Scientists have figured out a lot about how drugs and alcohol affect our brains. They show how drugs make people feel good, can result in tolerance after extended use, and cause withdrawal symptoms when substance use stops. Addiction is not a moral failing but instead a physiological burden that causes people to lose their interest in other pleasure-producing activities and reduces their ability to control the powerful impulses to use substances.

The statistics about the consequences of alcohol and drug abuse are staggering. Over 66 million people have reported problematic drinking and over 27 million people have reported current illicit drug use or misuse of prescription drugs. The combined yearly economic impact nears $450 billion. However only about 10% of the people with substance use disorder will receive any type of specialty treatment.

2. Prevention works

The report highlights that preventative measures are a key component to reducing potential disorders. Preventative measures and prevention programs can assist by addressing factors that put people at risk, increasing ways to protect people from future disorders, and monitoring other issues such as age of first use (which has a significant impact on the likelihood of addiction).

3. Treatment is effective

There are effective, evidence-based practices to treat substance use disorders. These practices should be used whether treatment is provided through a primary care physician or a specialty addiction recovery provider like CPC. Treatment should include both therapeutic and prescription services as appropriate. Medications like methadone and buprenorphine significantly improve the likelihood of sustained recovery.

4. People can and do recover

True recovery from addiction requires many different factors. This includes professional treatment, recovery resources, such as 12 step group meetings, and ongoing help from a support network. This is not a quick or easy process but those who maintain recovery can reduce their likelihood of relapse to a level similar to that of an individual with no addiction history.

5. An integrated, public health approach to prevention and treatment can have a big impact

It is vital that addiction be treated as a public health need and that individuals are no longer stigmatized as personally failing or showing poor moral character. It will only be through an integrated, public health approach that involves medical professionals, community organizations and leaders, and the public at large that this epidemic can be solved.


Check out CPC’s Addiction Recovery services here.

You can read the Surgeon General’s report here.

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