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Rx Summit: Surgeon general marks a year of progress

April 18, 2017
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, remembers the details of his public and his private life from one year ago. Publicly, he was preparing the first-ever surgeon general’s report on addiction, and privately he was absorbing the news that he and his wife were expecting a baby boy.

“Our son is eight months old now,” he told the attendees of the 6th Annual National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta on Tuesday. “Every day since then, my wife Alice and I think about what kind of world, what kind of country, we want to create for our son. We want him to live in a nation that is grounded in the values that affirm the worthiness of life.”

And now, a year later, the “Facing Addiction in America” report has become a comprehensive resource on the scope of substance use disorders (SUDs) as well as the life-saving resources to prevent and treat them.

“I wanted to call attention to the addiction crisis in America to see it for what it was: a public health crisis that demands a public health solution,” Murthy said.

The report documents that 20.8 million people have SUDs—similar to the number of people who are diagnosed with diabetes, and one-and-a-half times the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer. However, only 10% of individuals with SUDs receive treatment. It’s an unacceptable situation, according to Murthy. This country would never stand idly by and allow just 10% of those with cancer to receive treatment.

He believes there is more work to be done.

Cost of addiction

When considering medical and societal costs, addiction disorders cost the United States $442 billion a year, Murthy said. But there are reasons to be hopeful. Programs across the country are showing positive results.

“When it comes to prevention, we have programs that save up to $64 for every $1 invested,” he said. “The good news is we know what works. The problem is we’re not doing enough of it.”

He called for increased use of PDMPs, integrated care, adequate insurance coverage for treatment and an end to the stigma surrounding addiction disorders.