It couldn’t be clearer. The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (The New York Times, Nov 17) is a wake-up call that we are facing a public health challenge that is ‘taking an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society.’ The financial costs of alcohol and illicit drug use combined are $442 billion. But the personal costs are much, much greater. At least 85 people a day (some reports say over 100) are dying from opioid-related overdoses.
It can’t go on. The death rate from what is a preventable, and treatable disease, is unconscionable. The financial costs are unsustainable.
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy makes a strong case for at last treating addiction as a public health not criminal justice issue. This is critical. Stigma and punishment combined have stopped people from getting help; have tied up our law enforcement agencies in a vicious and dangerous cycle of recidivism; and have claimed the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
Let’s bring addiction out of the shadows of shame and commit to treating it like any other medical or mental health issue.