US Surgeon General issues call to action in fight against opioid, alcohol abuse

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action Thursday to end the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, which he said is both under-appreciated and under-treated in the U.S., according to Reuters.

Vivek Murthy, MD, issued the first-ever Surgeon General's report on addiction Nov. 17, with the goal that the report will stimulate heightened efforts to combat the issue, similar to how a report 50 years ago catalyzed a movement to reduce smoking.

Deaths caused by prescription painkillers and heroin overdoses in the U.S. in 2014 rose 6.5 percent to a new record of 47,055, according to the CDC.

"The most important thing is, we have to change attitudes towards addiction and get people into treatment," Dr. Murthy said in an interview, according to the report. "Addiction is a disease of the brain," he added, "not a character flaw."

The report calls for a holistic approach to battling the addiction epidemic, including a coordinated effort among policymakers, regulators, scientists, families, schools and local communities. Dr. Murthy emphasized the need to increase access to existing treatment programs, which he said have shown to reduce the risk of relapse, while simultaneously expanding new and more effective treatment programs.

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