Twenty million Americans struggle with substance abuse; 78 die each day from an opioid overdose. These findings in U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy's report have made drug and alcohol addiction one of his top priorities.
"There are millions of Americans living in the shadows right now who need help, who need treatment," Murthy said.
Murthy says addiction needs to be treated as a disease, not a character flaw. He says medication and counseling work, and brain science offers hope for recovery.
"What the science tells us very clearly is that addiction is, in fact, a chronic disease of the brain and we have to treat it with the same urgency, compassion and skill as we would any other chronic illness," Murthy said.
The surgeon general hopes his report will help turn the tide against substance abuse. Much as the landmark report on tobacco in the 1960s helped galvanize the country to fight smoking.
David Gerber is the director of counseling at a New York treatment center. He told us earlier this year he agrees that addicts can be helped with the right care.
"Treatment works, we know that," Gerber said. "For every dollar we spend on treatment, we save taxpayers $7 on other costs, whether it's hospitalizations, long-term illness, incarceration. Treatment works."
The surgeon general says only one in 10 substance abusers is receiving treatment and that's a fact that has to change.
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