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There are 27 million Americans that suffer from addiction to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Only 1 in 10 receives help, and the cost of addiction in America is upwards of $440 billion. The problem, according to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, is not the addicts themselves but the other 27 million Americans harboring a negative, entrenched stigma about drug addicts. The truth is that drug addiction is not a moral failing or a disease of choice but, as the Surgeon General reports, a chronic illness that needs to be treated as such by the public, by the media, and by physicians.

Murthy’s report, “Facing Addiction,” presents the latest facts on drug and alcohol abuse and its health impacts for the nation, it presents the barriers to treatment, and makes a case for a push for prevention. Despite the incredible numbers and the reality that addicts, like diabetics, represent more than half of the American people. Addiction is a treatable, and more importantly, preventable chronic disease.

“A person who begins drinking before the age of 15 has four times the chance of becoming addicted than someone who starts after 21,” Murthy said in an interview with the Washington Post.1 Which is why prevention through youth programs, community outreach, and innovative new educational technology is so important. The call to action throughout the Surgeon General’s report and his interviews has been to enact a cultural change in the persistent negative beliefs surrounding addicts and drug abuse. There is a need to shift the perception of addiction to one of a chronic illness that requires compassion, treatment, and chronic care management.

You can view a video summary of the Surgeon General’s report below:

The full National Summit video can be viewed here:

And, you can read the report here:

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