U.S. surgeon general: addiction is illness, not moral failing

- The first Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health in America has been released. It shows just how devastating the addiction epidemic has become in the United States. The toll is both human and economic. More people live with substance abuse disorders -- roughly 20 million Americans -- than people with cancer, the report says.

During a conference call, Rear Admiral Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, also revealed the staggering national cost of substance abuse: $442 billion every year. That is why he is calling for a shift in the way the U.S. looks at addiction. That means more investment in treatment and prevention at every level. He said that parents need to talk to children about substance abuse, educators need to implement prevention programs in schools, and doctors and nurses need to be better trained in how to screen for and treat substance abuse disorders.

Teens that start drinking before 15 years old are four times as likely to get addicted to alcohol, the report said.

Dr. Harris Straytner, an addiction specialist, said the new federal report could be a watershed moment in the way the country looks at substance abuse by taking away the shame and stigma.

The report also got into opioid abuse, which we know has been a growing problem lately. It found that 78 people die every day in the United States from overdoses, quadruple the number in 1999. 

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