Last Thursday, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, released Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids as part of his ongoing effort in educating the public about substance use disorders.
The document, 40 pages long including introductions, briefly overviews various aspects of substance use disorders, including the neurobiology behind them and the methods of treatment that are available.
The spotlight was heavily influenced by input from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is intended as a condensed version of the larger, 413-page document: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (which you can view here).
What’s in the Spotlight on Opioids
In his preface to The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids, VADM Adams writes that substance use disorders are a personal issue for him: his brother suffers from one and has spent time in and out of incarceration as a result.
Upon his confirmation in 2017, Adams described addressing the opioid epidemic as one of his top two priorities, along with untreated mental illness. In the spotlight document, Adams writes about the importance of destigmatizing SUDs:
“The first step is understanding that opioid use disorder is a chronic but treatable brain disease, and not a moral failing or character flaw. Like many other chronic medical conditions, opioid use disorder is both treatable, and in many cases, preventable. It is also a disease that must be addressed with compassion. Unfortunately, stigma has prevented many sufferers and their families from speaking about their struggles and from seeking help. The way we as a society view and address opioid use disorder must change—individual lives and the health of our nation depend on it.” (emphasis added)
The Spotlight on Opioids includes information on the following topics, among others:
- Deaths from opioid overdose – opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016, an average of more than 115 per day, and more than five times higher than the number of opioid-related deaths in 1999. For 2017, the CDC estimates this number to be 47,872. “Opioids can depress critical areas in the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature and cause them to stop functioning,” the document reads.
- Medication-assisted treatment – the surgeon general’s report cites this revolutionary method as a reason for optimism in spite of the increasing number of opioid deaths. A safe and easy-to-control evidence-based therapy method, medication-assisted treatment (or MAT) is believed to result in lower healthcare costs for patients with SUDs than if they were not seeking treatment ($13,578 compared to $31,055, according to this spotlight). MAT is endorsed by sixteen payers and was included within the massive Opioid Crisis Response Act passed by the U.S. Senate in September. The spotlight covers three types of medications commonly used in MAT: methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone®, Subutex®), and naltrexone (Vivitrol®). Click to learn more about medication-assisted treatment.
- The neurobiology of SUDs – The spotlight breaks down the neurobiology of “substance use, misuse, and addiction.” It defines such key terms as “relapse” and “dependence” and breaks down the three-stage cycle of the addiction process: binge/intoxication, withdrawal/negative affect, and preoccupation/anticipation.
Read the Spotlight on Opioids in full by clicking here.
Five Ways We Can Prevent Opioid Misuse
The surgeon general’s Spotlight on Opioids was released along with a digital postcard listing five simple actions every American can take to raise awareness, prevent opioid misuse, and reduce overdose deaths.
- Talk about opioid misuse – if we as a nation are going to overcome SUDs, they must be destigmatized. Those suffering from an opioid addiction, or those who have already sought treatment, should speak up and have a conversation about opioid disorders.
- Be safe – only take opioid medications as prescribed, make sure to store medication in a secure place, and dispose of unused medication properly.
- Understand pain and talk with your healthcare provider – addictive opioids are not the only method to manage pain. Speak with your doctor about alternative methods, or contact AZZLY® for more information.
- Understand that addiction is a chronic disease – as the surgeon general wrote in his preface, addiction is a disease, not a moral shortcoming or something to be ashamed of. And it is treatable and preventable.
- Be prepared – acquire the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone, and learn how to use it.
Contact AZZLY for more information on how a EMR specific to SUD providers can support medication-assisted treatment clinics and other treatment methods in addressing the opioid epidemic, and follow us on Facebook to keep up with breaking news in the addiction treatment industry, written by AZZLY’s industry experts.