Surgeon general report cites addiction as top US health concern

Jeff Rowe
Surgeon general report cites addiction as top US health concern

Heart disease and cancer may be the first things that come to mind when you think of health concerns, but according to US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, the biggest public health concern in the U.S. is addiction.  That’s the message of a recently released report from the Surgeon General’s office in which “he outlines the severity of substance abuse in the country, likens addiction to chronic disease and outlines how each healthcare stakeholder can work toward combatting the growing problem.”

According to the report, roughly 27 million Americans suffer with addiction problems including alcohol, drug and prescription misuse and substance use disorders, another 66 million partake in binge drinking, 78 people die each day from opioid overdose, but only 10 percent of these people seek treatment.

Not surprisingly, health IT is playing an important role in addressing this nationwide problem. 

"Use of Health IT is expanding to support greater communication and collaboration among providers, fostering better integrated and collaborative care, while at the same time protecting patient privacy," Murthy said in the report.

"It also has the potential for expanding access to care, extending the workforce, improving care coordination, reaching individuals who are resistant to engaging in traditional treatment settings and providing outcomes and recovery monitoring," he added. "Current health reform efforts and recent advances in technology are playing a crucial role in moving toward an effective public health-based model for addressing substance misuse and its consequences. But the healthcare system cannot address all of the major determinants of health related to substance misuse without the help of the wider community.”

Murthy said he hopes the report will get the ball rolling for a culture shift on drug abuse, while destigmatizing addiction for it to be considered a chronic disease.