Not since 1964 has the US Surgeon General released a report on addiction, substance use, and health, and later this year, they are poised to issue a comprehensive analysis of current research and reports on these subjects, according to Medscape.
Alcohol use, prescription drug use, and use of all illicit substances will be included in the report.
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, says that the report to be released this fall will “bring together the best available science on prevention, treatment, and recovery, so we can equip our healthcare providers with the tools they need to take the best possible care of patients.”
Opiate addiction and abuse of prescription painkillers specifically are in sharp focus for the office of the US Surgeon General. Murthy says that more than 1 million medical professionals across disciplines who prescribe painkillers will be sent a letter encouraging them to:
- Make an effort to identify patients who are at high risk for the development of an addiction
- Educate patients on the risks of painkiller use on any level
- Encourage the use of holistic pain management methods before employing painkillers
- Connect patients who need addiction treatment to services that can help them heal
- Help reduce the stigma that is often associated with substance use disorders and addiction treatment
Murthy says that the report and the US Surgeon General office are working to “help the country to see addiction not as a moral failing, not as a bad choice, but as a chronic disease” that requires treatment just like any other chronic medical disorder.
Says Murthy: “We cannot heal as a nation without compassion. Compassion is what allows us to stop judging and to start helping, and to step beyond our own bias and offer people support.”
Why the Research Matters
Every year, hundreds of studies are released on subjects related to addiction and drug and alcohol use – everything from studies on social impact to physiological effect to treatments that are effective or not. Because there is not yet a cure for the disease, the focus of these studies is to find preventative measures that are effective in helping people to avoid developing a substance use disorder in the first place or to better understand how different drugs work in the brain so more effective treatments can be applied that help people to stop using drugs safely and learn how to live a more balanced life in recovery. This upcoming report should help to synthesize what we know about addiction trends, effects, and treatment in a comprehensible format that helps providers better reach those in need.
What It Can Mean for You
On a personal level, more information can translate into more helpful providers locally and, in some cases, an increase in services if you live in an area that is identified as underserved. Research often seeks to understand the current trends that are happening across the country, identifying popular drugs of abuse, the populations most likely to use those drugs, and the communities hardest hit by substance use disorders. For areas that are struggling with high rates of substance use and addiction, this increased understanding can result in:
- Better care by primary care physicians who may not have formerly understood the nature of addiction and how to identify a potential substance use disorder
- More treatment facilities locally
- Increased prevention efforts in schools
- Better use of local taxes and state and federal funds for the purposes of prevention and treatment
Taking Advantage of Treatment Options
If you, or someone in your family, are struggling with a substance use disorder, you too can benefit from the many studies that are released by addiction researchers, including the US Surgeon General’s report. By learning more about the specific drug that is plaguing your family, what treatment options are available, why and how substances alter personality, and what can be expected in terms of long-term stability in sobriety, you will be better equipped to manage your personal journey in recovery. You will:
- Know the risks and medical issues caused by use of certain substances or combinations of substances
- Be able to identify signs of drug use, addiction, or overdose
- Understand the types of treatment options that are available
- Know what is needed in terms of support in recovery both during rehab and beyond
- Drug addiction is a medical disorder that negatively impacts how the brain functions, which in turn causes significant shifts in mental health, physical health, and personality.
- There are a number of effective treatments, that when applied intensively and for as long as is required to become stable in recovery, can be hugely effective in helping someone to live a life without drugs and alcohol.
- Drug addiction not only harms the person who drinks or uses drugs but family members as well. It is thus recommended that family members not only engage in the treatment process of the individual struggling with addiction but also embark on their own journeys toward balance and recovery.
- Relapse does not mean that treatment “failed.” Addiction is a chronic disorder that may be characterized by relapse. Relapse simply indicates that adjustments must be made and a renewed focus on recovery is required for continued sobriety.
As with all chronic illnesses, early identification is helpful. It can mean early treatment, which in turn will limit the harm done by the disease and increase the likelihood of maintaining sobriety with fewer and/or shorter relapses. However, no matter how long a drug abuse disorder has been an issue, treatment is always recommended. It is never too late to get help.