Surgeon General’s report on addiction taps Yale leadership

On Nov. 17, 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General and Yale alumnus Vivek Murthy ’03, M.D., ’03 M.B.A. released a landmark report, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.” The comprehensive document marks the first time that a surgeon general has focused on substance misuse and related disorders.

Vivek Murthy and Patrick O’Connor

The report also highlights the continued leadership of Yale experts on addiction. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 66 million people in the United States reported binge drinking in the past month, while over 27 million were current users of illicit drugs, including prescription drugs. Patrick G. O’Connor, M.D., the Dan and Amanda Adams Professor of General Medicine and chief of general internal medicine, was an author of the report, and David Fiellin, M.D., professor of medicine, served as a reviewer.

O’Connor’s contribution focused on examining the scientific evidence documenting the effectiveness of addiction treatment, along with looking at strategies to enhance the role of generalist physicians in identifying and providing treatments for patients with substance misuse and substance use disorders. He anticipates that “Facing Addiction in America” will have the same positive impact on substance use as prior Surgeon General Reports have had on other critical public health issues, such as cigarette smoking. The first landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health in 1964 created the foundation for highly impactful tobacco control efforts in the United States.

“The hope is with this broader look at addiction, we can have a similar transformative impact, not only addiction to tobacco, which has been the focus of past reports, but also on misuse of and addiction to alcohol and illicit drugs — including prescription drugs used non-medically — which is the focus of this new report,” O’Connor said.

The Surgeon General’s emphasis on treating addiction like a chronic disease dovetails with the research and advocacy efforts of Yale faculty representing a range of disciplines, including internal medicine, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and public health. “This report helps to highlight the importance of the interdisciplinary research that Yale has been conducting for years,” said Fiellin.

“Addiction is a chronic disease that requires a proactive, informed approach to get patients the care they need, and this report will help tremendously,” O’Connor noted. “We need to assure that the healthcare workforce, and especially our future physicians, have the training and expertise to prevent addiction and care for patients who struggle with this disease.”

Read the full report and executive summary from the Surgeon General.

Read more about recent addiction-related research and efforts at Yale.

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