Last week the Surgeon General released his report on drugs, alcohol and health. This report has been a long time in coming. 20.8 million people suffer from a substance abuse. That is the same amount of people suffering from diabetes. Millions of people need treatment but only 1 in 10 are receiving it. Imagine if only 1 in 10 people could get treatment for cancer. If only 1 in 10 people could get treatment for diabetes. America would not tolerate that. Addiction affects not just the individual, but everyone around that individual. America’s addiction has affected us all in some way. We must stand up for addiction and face it together.
RECOVERY IS REAL
Miss America opened up the report. She suffered from addiction from the age of 14. In 2006 she herself had to be checked into rehab. The current president elect had at the time sent her there. She was stigmatized and called numerous names such as Mess America and Disgrace America. However, today she stands tall and will speak about her addiction to anyone that will listen. Recovery does work and as a person in long term recovery she is proof.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Vice Admiral Vivek Murphy is the current Surgeon General. As a Doctor this is something personal for him. He had seen so clearly what addiction can do. The Mothers and Fathers that had to bury their own children. It just isn’t supposed to work that way. Substance Abuse Disorders are the most under appreciated and under addressed public health crisis. Science has given us hope. For too long people have seen addiction as a choice, a character flaw. Even a moral failing. Addiction is a disease of the brain. We have a major challenge ahead of us. We need more than doctors, law enforcement and scientists. It takes a village and that has never been more apparent. Our journey isn’t over until we can value each and every life. Love needs to overcome fear and we all need to work together for this common goal.
CHANGING THE CONVERSATION
Melissa Fitzgerald from Justice for Vets had a very inspiring speech. The conversation needs to change. We need to focus on solutions and collaboration. Our judicial system most adopt a public health approach for substance and mental health. She has travelled to treatment courts around the country and she has seen recovery from all walks of life. People simply need treatment. No individual is beyond hope and everybody can find recovery.
ADDICTION IS A BRAIN DISEASE
Dr. Nora Volkow and Dr. George Koob presented some amazing facts about addiction. It is one of the most challenging epidemics America has ever had. Addiction changes how the neurons work in the brain. We can now go in the human brain and see how addiction is working. The frontal cortex that allows us to maintain judgement and control emotions and desires is damaged. That area is directly affected by substance abuse. When you damage that area you will repeat taking a drug over and over, even when it is not desirable. The brain of the adult may take months or years to continue normal behavior. However, you can eventually recover. There are three stages in addiction. You have the binge intoxication stage, withdrawal stage and craving stage. These three stages make it conducive to relapsing.
This is a huge step in facing addiction in America. Stigma needs to be a thing of the past. We do recover! With all the facts and research that has been done we have a solid groundwork to move forward.