The opioid epidemic and substance use disorders are a public health crisis that is ravaging our country. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, 1 in 7 people is expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2017 an estimated 21 million Americans—more than the number of people who have all cancers combined—suffered from a substance use disorder involving alcohol or drugs. Only 4 million received treatment, or about 19% of those who needed it.
Recognizing the urgency of this public health challenge, the Office of the Surgeon General has released several addiction reports and publications, including the first ever Surgeon General’s report on substance use and addiction in November 2016. In 2018 Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids assembled related information from the 2016 report, bringing together the best available science on the prevalence of substance use, opioid misuse, opioid use disorders, opioid overdoses, and related harms. The goal of the report is to equip health care providers, communities, policymakers, law enforcement, and families with the information and tools they need to address this growing epidemic.
In 2018, the Office of the Surgeon General also released its first public health advisory in 13 years to urge more Americans to carry a lifesaving medication, naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Read more here about opioid overdose prevention and response.
Other resources are available from HHS, which declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-Point Strategy To Combat the Opioid Crisis:
- Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
- Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
- Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
- Support cutting-edge research on addiction and pain
- Advance the practice of pain management