Monday, November 28, 2016

ADDICTION CRISIS - Surgeon General's Report

"Surgeon General's report calls for response to addiction crisis" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2016


SUMMARY:  U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is warning Americans of the prevalence of substance abuse and the risks of not addressing it.  His new report describes the lethal impact and widespread scope of addiction.  William Brangham speaks with Murthy for more on why so few people find effective treatment, the stigma around addiction and the corresponding medical and legal costs of the problem.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  According to the Surgeon General's report more than 27 million Americans have problems with prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol.  But just a fraction of those people, only 10 percent, get meaningful help.  The report cites missed opportunities for prevention and treatment and it says our substance abuse costs the country a staggering 440 billion a year.  I'm joined by the US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy.  Doctor, thank you very much for being here.

VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. Surgeon General:  Really glad to be with you.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  This is a pretty sobering report.  Millions of people suffering, very, very few people are getting help.  When you compiled all this data, were you surprised by what you had found?

VIVEK MURTHY:  Well, I had seen the problem up close as a doctor practicing medicine.  When I came into medicine, I expected as an internal medicine doctor to primarily see people with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  And I was shocked by the number of patients who came under my care who actually had substance abuse.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  You were seeing this in private practice before being tapped to be in the federal government?

VIVEK MURTHY:  Yes, I have always seen this — we even — starting in medical school itself and then on throughout my medical career, the experience was not unique to me but many of my clinician colleagues were seeing the same thing and they were really surprised.

When I became Surgeon General and had the privilege of travelling around the country and hearing people's stories firsthand, I found that every community was touched in some way by substance abuse disorders.  I went to a small fishing village in Alaska called Napaskiak which is accessible only by boat and no roads to go there and even in this small village of less than 500 people, the small little building where they kept medications had been broken into multiple times by people seeking out prescription painkillers.

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