Philadelphia Addiction Professionals React to the Surgeon General's Report

After the release of U.S. Surgeon General's groundbreaking report Thursday that pushed for a major shift in the way Americans view alcohol and drug addiction, local experts believe "the stigma of substance use may be changing."

In what may be his last significant act as President Barack Obama's surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, called for a cultural shift in the way Americans view drug and alcohol addiction.

"Taking the stigma of addiction and the shame and the guilt out of the shadows and really talking to people that it is a chronic disease (can show) it's a medical condition like any other," Martha Meehan-Cohen of Ashley Addiction Treatment told NBC10.

Murthy's report, "Facing Addiction in America," details the toll addiction takes on the nation — 78 people die each day from an opioid overdose; 20 million have a substance use disorder — and explains how brain science offers hope for recovery. While its findings have been reported elsewhere, including by other federal agencies, the report seeks to inspire action and sway public opinion in the style of the 1964 surgeon general's landmark report on smoking.

"People can feel confident that the stigma of substance use may be changing. People can actually get help without feeling concerned that people may know they have a substance use disorder," Dr. Karen Mechanic of the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital told NBC10.

With President-elect Donald Trump taking office, it's uncertain whether access to addiction treatment will improve or deteriorate. Trump and the Republican-led Congress are pledging to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which made addiction treatment an essential health benefit.

"Treatment is available, it works, and people need to be able to take advantage of it," said Dr. Mechanic.

In an interview Wednesday, Murthy said he hasn't spoken to Trump but looks forward to working with his administration to save lives with expanded access to treatment.

"We have made progress," Murthy said. "How do we keep that progress going? A key part is making sure people have insurance coverage."

While progress has been made, the report states only 10 percent of those addicted receive treatment.

"There is a shortage of literal spaces for people that need inpatient addiction treatment. As the disease becomes more understood, we hope there will be increased availability," Meehan-Cohen added. "The funding side of it, in that health insurance doesn't always cover the cost of treatment. So people that don't have good coverage aren't allowed to get good treatment."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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