The Surgeon General’s Report: Facing Addiction In America

Bob Hedberg and Kaela Prall-Moore

The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health is a comprehensive (and long) summary of the state of addiction and substances in the United States. Although it is full of useful information, it’s unlikely that you have the time or resources to read the 413-page document from cover to cover. With that in mind, we’ve condensed a few of the facts from the report into this blog to give you some easily accessible information—as well as an idea of where to look for information within the report.

Substance misuse and its harms are a pervasive problem in the United States. Not only are individuals and families struggling with the consequences of this serious issue, the effects have far-reaching consequences in workplaces, the health care system, schools, states, and communities. In the United States:

  • Almost 67 million people reported binge drinking in the past month (p 1.7).
  • Nearly 48 million people said they used an illicit drug or misused prescription drugs in the past year (p 1.9).
  • In 2015, nearly 21 million people had a medically diagnosed substance use disorder, but only 1 in 10 received any type of treatment (p 4.2).
  • One in seven people (14.6 percent of the population) are expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives (p 1.7).
  • Nearly 30,000 people died from overdosing on prescription drugs in 2014 (p 1.14).
  • Substance misuse and substance use disorders are estimated to cost society $442 billion each year in health care costs, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs (p 7.2).
  • Prevention works. Treatment is effective. Recovery is possible for everyone.
  • We can take action now by eradicating negative attitudes and changing the way people think about addiction.

In spite of all this, we have reason for hope and optimism. Through research, we have new knowledge and clear conclusions proving that addiction is a chronic brain disease requiring medical intervention, not moral judgment.

Scientifically tested prevention programs and policies are available to reduce people’s risk of misusing alcohol and drugs. Treatment is effective and more than 25 million people are in remission from drug or alcohol use disorder. We also know that long-term recovery is possible. Ongoing recovery support services, like mutual aid, recovery coaches, and recovery housing, assist people in building a healthy, productive life.

As a prevention community, we have the ability to inspire and catalyze action in this crisis. The launch of the historic report, The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, addresses the issue in clear and understandable language. It shows us that everyone has a role to play in changing the conversation about substance use. Together we can improve the health, safety, and well-being of individuals and communities across our nation! The Report provides suggestions and recommended actions for individuals, families, community leaders, health care professionals, the private sector, policy makers, and researchers. Take a look at the Report and the Executive Summary to discover new information to use in your community!