Report urges policy makers to treat substance abuse as a medical - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Report urges policy makers to treat substance abuse as a medical condition

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A major medical group is urging doctors and policy makers to think differently when it comes to tackling substance abuse.  

Forty-two year-old Julio Reyes has been clean for three years, but his addiction to heroin is still a constant fight. "It's a lifetime battle -- never ends," Reyes said.

Now the American College of Physicians is taking a radical new stance -- recommending substance abuse disorders be treated as a chronic medical condition, not a moral failure.

Doctor Andrew Dunn with Mount Sinai Hospital authored the new guidelines, which promote treatment for addicts instead of criminalizing their behavior and throwing them in jail. "The stigma that's been associated with this condition over years has led to a lack of treatment options," he said.

In 2014 the group found only 18-percent of the 22 and-a-half million Americans with drug or alcohol problems actually received treatment compared to more than 70-percent for hypertension, diabetes, and depression. 

Reyes found care at START, a New York treatment and recovery center. START's CEO, Doctor Lawrence Brown, says the new guidelines are right on target. "The ACP is one of the key players in medicine today," he said. "When those key players make a statement as comprehensive as this, it makes a big difference."

Reyes is now a peer counselor, and getting back on his feet. "I want to move forward and helping people," he said. "They can see if i can do it, they can do it as well."

The new recommendations also tell doctors to pay closer attention to guidelines for prescribing addictive painkillers, which continue to fuel the opioid epidemic. The also recommend a national database to keep track of opioid prescriptions to limit overuse of painkillers.

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