Substance abuse disorders in US go untreated 90% of the time: 4 things to know

Nearly 21 million Americans suffer from a substance abuse disorder and only 10 percent of them receive treatment for their condition, according to a new report released by the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, on Thursday.

The report — Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health — examines health issues related to the abuse of both illicit and prescription drugs, in addition to alcohol. The document represents the first time the Surgeon General has dedicated an entire report to health issues pertaining to substance abuse.

"Alcohol and drug addiction take an enormous toll on individuals, families and communities," said Dr. 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."

Here are four key takeaways from the report.

1. One in seven people in the U.S. are projected to develop a substance abuse issue at some point in their lives.

2. In 2015, nearly 48 million Americans used an illegal drug or misused a prescription medication. Also, approximately 67 million people reported binge drinking in the past month and nearly 28 million reported operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol within the last year. These are forms of drug misuse, which can result in the development of a substance abuse disorder, according to the report. The Surgeon General recommends, providing this vulnerable population with increased access to prevention and treatment services.

3. Each year, alcohol and drug misuse and abuse cost the United States more than $400 billion in lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, law enforcement and other criminal justice costs, and financial losses from motor vehicle crashes.

4. While substance abuse services like Alcoholics Anonymous have traditionally operated unilaterally from both mental health and general health services, this separation has damaged the treatment of addiction in America. To end this separation, the Surgeon General recommends establishing "an integrated system of prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery that can address the full spectrum of substance use-related health problems is a logical and necessary shift that our society must make to prevent substance misuse and its consequences and meet the needs of individuals with substance use disorders."

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