According to a new report from US surgeon general, nearly 21 million Americans are struggling with substance abuse and only one out of ten are receiving treatment, ABC reports. That's more people than are currently diagnosed with any type of cancer.
The report is the first of its kind to dive into the country's addiction epidemic and is on par with the one released to the public during the AIDS/HIV crisis. It found that in 2014, approximately 50,000 Americans died from an opioid, alcohol, or other drug overdose, whereas only 32,744 died from car accidents. Of the 50,000 overdoses that year, nearly 30,000 of them were caused by heroin or prescription opioids.
"The nurses had one parting request for me," US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in the study of his former colleagues. "If you can only do one thing as surgeon general, they said, please do something about the addiction crisis in America. I have not forgotten their words."
Murthy recommends the US tackle the problem with more funding and research for potential treatment options, better screening at medical facilities, and more early intervention programs. The study also supports a shift in how people think about drug addiction in general.
"I recognize there is no single solution," Murthy writes. "For far too long, too many in our country have viewed addiction as a moral failing."
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