NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are 20-million Americans suffering from substance abuse, and 78 of those people die each day from opioid overdose.

Those findings are part of the first ever Surgeon General’s report on addiction in America.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, the report is being compared to the landmark Surgeon General’s report on tobacco more than 50 years ago.

It seeks to have all addiction — alcohol, prescription drugs, heroin, and other opioids — treated as a chronic disease like heart disease or cancer.

The addiction epidemic is widespread, and an equal opportunity destroyer of lives, from young people on Long Island to affluent neighborhoods in Westchester to the suburbs of New Jersey — opioid abuse is taking the lives of far too many.

“It is a nightmare that nobody ever wanted to live,” Cheryl Stankov said.

It is that kind of tragedy that led Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General to produce a groundbreaking report on addiction in America — calling it the most pressing public health challenge of our time.

More people suffer from a substance abuse disorder than the number of all patients with cancer combined.

“Only one in ten people receives treatment. In addition, one in seven people in the U.S. is expected to develop a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives,” Dr. Murthy said.

According to Dr. Murthy, the biggest obstacle to stopping the epidemic is the way we think of addiction.

“We have to recognize that addiction is not a moral failing. It’s a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency, and compassion,” Dr. Murthy added.

Addiction experts like Dr. Paul Rinaldi at Mount Sinai West agreed with Dr. Murthy that treatment programs that combine medication and counseling are effective and actually save money when the costs of addiction are added up.

“Homelessness, crime, loss of productivity, and high utilization of health care services, circles right back around. We’re paying for this anyway, we’re just paying for it in the wrong way,” Dr. Rinaldi said.

Dr. Rinaldi and others said the Affordable Care Act has actually helped with addiction treatment because it puts addiction and other mental health programs on the same level as medical problems — requiring that lifetime caps for treatment be the same for physical and mental issues.

 

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