YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Local experts dealing with those suffering with alcohol and drug addiction are calling a new report from the nation’s chief medical officer something that could change the way people perceive the problem.
The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a 400-page study called “Facing Addiction in America,” covering various aspects of abuse, treatment and recovery, as well as the stigma of addiction being a personal choice or a character flaw.
Dr. Dan Brown, with Meridian Community Care, said he agrees with the Surgeon General — that addiction is a serious, chronic medical condition.
“I think that’s one of the nice things about this report, really addressing how addiction occurs, how it works in the brain and the factors that lead to someone developing an addiction,” he said.
The report also says there were nearly 21 million people suffering with some sort of addiction disorder last year, but only one in 10 were receiving any treatment.
“The number of people that we see coming here on a daily basis really suggests to us that there is a great amount of addiction in the population that is untreated. Most of the patients that are walking through our door every day have not sought treatment anywhere else until they come here,” Dr. Brown said.
The Surgeon General says the public needs to begin treating the problem the same way it handled cigarette smoking in the 1960s and 70s. and more recently, the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
“Addiction is a brain disease. It is an illness that needs to be treated as an illness, not as a character flaw,” Dr. Brown said.
But local experts also see the problem as affecting more than just those who are addicted.
“Addiction is touching so many people that it’s hard to find someone that doesn’t have a loved one, family member or friend that’s been touched by addiction,” said Amanda Paventi.
Paventi is the local director of TASC, short for “Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes.” She said agencies are working to create new programs to help those arrested on drug-related crimes before they would face conviction and prison time.
“We’re hoping by putting a pretrial program into place, we could have more points early-on to intervene with offenders before it possibly gets to the criminal justice system,” she said.
Brown and Paventi agree with the Surgeon General’s contention that Americans need to change their perceptions of abuse and addiction and eliminate the stigma that could be keeping people from seeking the help they need.