Time to Change View on Addiction: Not a Moral Failing

Thursday, November 17, 2016 | 11:33am

NASHVILLE- A new Surgeon General’s report finds alcohol and drug misuse and severe substance use disorders, commonly called addiction, to be one of America’s most pressing public health concerns.  Nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all cancers combined – suffer from substance use disorders. In Tennessee, it is estimated that 373,000 adults and 26,000 youth have a substance use disorder.

“Alcohol and drug addiction take an enormous toll on individuals, families, and communities,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. “Most Americans know someone who has been touched by an alcohol or a drug use disorder. Yet 90 percent of people with a substance use disorder are not getting treatment. That has to change.”

“The addiction epidemic is a saddening reality in this country and Tennessee is no exception,” said Commissioner Marie Williams, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “It is unprecedented to have the Surgeon General place a priority on substance abuse and hopefully, this will shed some national light on this public health crisis affecting our loved ones. Our Department stands ready with our community partners to provide more recovery options for Tennesseans struggling with addiction.”

“It’s time to change how we view addiction,” said Dr. Murthy. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”

“Tennessee has engaged the faith-based community in the fight against addiction in hopes of reducing the stigma associated with substance abuse,” said Assistant Commissioner of Substance Abuse Services Rodney Bragg, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Since its inception, the Faith-Based Initiative in Tennessee has seen phenomenal growth and transformed hearts and minds by educating people about the complexity of addiction as an illness rather than a moral deficiency.”

Today’s report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders. The report addresses alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drug misuse, with chapters dedicated to neurobiology, prevention, treatment, recovery, health systems integration and recommendations for the future. It provides an in-depth look at the science of substance use disorders and addiction, calls for a cultural shift in the way Americans talk about the issue, and recommends actions we can take to prevent and treat these conditions, and promote recovery.

“Families across this country are fighting addiction -they’re fighting an illness, as well as a stigma. They’re doing all they can, and we should do no less.  At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we have worked hard to make our nation healthier and save lives by increasing access to evidence-based treatment for those who need it,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “While there’s more to do, this historic report provides us guidance and outlines important steps we can take to move forward, build on our progress to address this public health crisis, and make a difference for more Americans.”

The report identifies substance use disorders as a public health problem that requires a public health solution. It recommends taking action by eradicating negative attitudes and changing the way people think about substance use disorders; recognizing substance misuse and intervening early; and expanding access to treatment.

To find out more information about Tennessee’s Faith-Based Initiative, visit https://tn.gov/behavioral-health/topic/Faith-Based-Initiatives.

For the full report and executive summary, visit http://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, call Tennessee REDLINE (1-800-889-9789) or visit http://www.samhsa.gov/find-help.

Our Mission: Provide, plan for, and promote a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation, rehabilitation and recovery support services for Tennesseans with mental illness and substance abuse issues.  Our Vision: To be one of the nation's most innovative and proactive state behavioral health authorities for Tennesseans dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems. For more information, visit: http://tn.gov/behavioral-health/.

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services