Just released: More people in U.S. have substance abuse disorder than all cancers combined

Surgeon General Murthy Wants America To Face Up To Addiction

Addiction to opioids and heroin is a major public health problem, but so is alcohol abuse.

Toby Talbot/AP

In 1964, the U.S. surgeon general released a report on the health impacts of smoking, and it shaped the public and government’s attitudes toward tobacco for years to come. On Thursday, another surgeon general’s report was issued, this time tackling a much broader issue: addiction and the misuse and abuse of chemical substances. The focus isn’t just one drug, but all of them.

Though little in the report is new, it puts impressive numbers to the problem, and some surprising context: More people use prescription opioids than use tobacco. There are more people with substance abuse disorders than people with cancer. One in five Americans binge drink. And substance abuse disorders cost the U.S. more than $420 billion a year.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is closing in on his second year as surgeon general, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep Thursday on Morning Edition that he hopes putting all the data together will help Americans understand that these problems share a common solution. And it starts with kids. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Interview Highlights

On the prevalence of substance abuse in the United States

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says there is evidence for what works to prevent substance abuse, but it’s often not applied.

Charles Dharapak/AP

An estimated 20.8 million people in our country are living with a substance use disorder. This is similar to the number of people who have diabetes, and 1.5 times the number of people who have all cancers combined. This number does not include the millions of people who are misusing substances but may not yet have a full-fledged disorder. We don’t invest nearly the same amount of attention or resources in addressing substance use disorders that we do in addressing diabetes or cancer, despite the fact that a similar number of people are impacted. That has to change.

We now know from solid data that substance abuse disorders don’t discriminate. They affect the rich and the poor, all socioeconomic groups and ethnic groups. They affect people in urban areas and rural ones. Far more people than we realize are affected. It’s important for us to bring people out from the shadows, and get them the help that they need.

On the economic impact of substance use disorders

The impact this is having on the health and well being of our country, as well as our economy, is quite staggering. These substance use disorders cost over $420 billion a year in the form of health care costs, lost economic productivity, and cost to the criminal justice system. We measure numbers like this for other illnesses, too, and the cost for substance abuse disorders far exceeds the cost of diabetes.

On shifting views of substance disorders

For far too long people have thought about substance abuse disorders as a disease of choice, a character flaw or a moral failing. We underestimated how exposure to addictive substances can lead to full blown addiction.

Opioids are a good example.

Now we understand that these disorders actually change the circuitry in your brain. They affect your ability to make decisions, and change your reward system and your stress response. That tells us that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, and we need to treat it with the same urgency and compassion that we do with any other illness.

The opioid crisis has certainly received a lot of attention, and it is certainly tearing apart families and costing us in terms of lives lost and health care dollars. But in terms of actual cost, we lose the most lives and suffer the most costs from alcohol related disorders and alcohol related addiction. In 2015, about 66 million people reported that they’d engaged in at least one episode of binge drinking in the previous month. That’s a pretty astounding number. And in 2015, roughly 28 million people reported that they had driven under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

On what we can do to curb the addiction epidemic

There are prevention strategies and treatment strategies that can address multiple substance use disorders. Some of these programs are school-based, college-campus-based, and community-based, some online and some in person. Many — particularly the school-based programs — teach children how to manage stress in a healthy way, because stress is one of the reasons people turn to substances like alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription painkillers. The programs also teach them about substances of misuse, and teach them how to refuse tobacco and alcohol and other illicit substances when they’re offered.

The problem that we have right now is that we’re not implementing many of these evidence-based interventions.

While we’re calling people’s attention to some pretty stark statistics, I also want to recognize that there are reasons to be hopeful. All across our country we have examples of communities that are starting to step up and implement prevention programs and treatment programs. And peoples’ lives are changing as a result of that. We’ve been dealing with substance disorders for centuries. What’s different now is that we have solutions that work.

On continuing this work under the Trump administration

People on both sides of the aisle state clearly and in unequivocal terms that substance use disorders are a problem that we have to address now, because they are tearing apart our communities. So I am hopeful that we are all on the same page when it comes to addressing this crisis — and addressing it urgently. I’m looking forward to working with the next administration to do so.

Contact Addiction Campuses if you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse, addiction, or mental health issues.

Get help for your addiction now, before it gets worse or it’s too late!

Here’s blog John wrote on the importance of people getting help for their addictions before it’s too late.

Thanksgiving In Treatment: A Major Holiday Away From Family

Nearly one year ago, John graduated from our Texas campus, The Treehouse. This is his first-hand account of spending Thanksgiving at The Treehouse – away from family for the holiday.


Thanksgiving In Treatment: A Major Holiday Away From Family

This time last year, I was receiving treatment at The Treehouse, Addiction Campuses’ facility in Texas – hundreds of miles from my Tennessee home. Being in treatment on Thanksgiving, away from my wife and three kids, was a terrifying thought. But the thought of continuing to spiral out of control in my disease of addiction was equally terrifying.

I have found through personal experience, the absolute best time to go to treatment is right now – whenever ‘now’ is. I learned this through a very painful loss: Several years ago, when my brother was struggling with his own addiction, he didn’t go to treatment ‘right now’. My brother died from addiction on December 6. He did not make it to Christmas that year.

 

matt-clint-at-wedding

John (right) and his brother, Matt (left).

   “My brother died from addiction on December 6. He did not make it to Christmas that year.”

You may be thinking you will just get through the holidays and get help when things calm down. If you are considering going or sending a loved one to treatment soon, keep reading. This blog could save someone’s life.

For me, when I’m not actively working a recovery program, just the thought of the holidays causes enough angst to want to start using again. When I’m in active addiction during the holidays, I mentally check out and any hope of actually being present around the people I love the most is smashed. I either justify the stress as an excuse to use or I rationalize the celebration and festivities as an excuse to use. Either way, I add chaos to my life and the lives of everyone around me. It is a miserable place to exist. It is lonely, depressing and potentially fatal.

Thankfully, I was not given the choice to stay home for Thanksgiving last year. If it were up to me, I probably would have rationalized that I was not that bad and made excuses not to get the help I desperately needed. My family knew it was a life or death situation and bravely made the decision to put me on a plane to The Treehouse as soon as they saw I needed help. They didn’t want me to die, end up back in the hospital or in any other way ruin the holiday for everyone else. Of course, I was angry about getting sent away. But what I discovered later was that I was really angry at myself and the detrimental choices I made that lead up that point. I could not blame them for only wanting the best for me.

I made some great progress at The Treehouse. But, as Thanksgiving Day approached I hit a low point in my treatment. All of the great memories of holidays past came flooding back. I had countless memories of home cooked meals at my grandparents’ house, playing and watching football with relatives and looking through old photo albums with my cousins. My addictive mind has a great ability to forget all the horrible things I have done and only remembers the good stuff. Conversely, my family primarily recalls the chaos I created in the past and is less apt to remember the positive memories. While at The Treehouse, I was faced with feelings of guilt, shame and remorse. However, I vividly remember the staff telling me and all the clients that the Thanksgiving spread they had planned for us was going to be a memorable one. I figured it was just something they were saying to keep us all from feeling depressed that we were in treatment for such a big holiday. I was not looking forward to it. But sure enough, the loving staff and cooks came through in a huge way.

the-treehouse-thanksgiving

Chef Christian Gonzalez features his Thanksgiving spread.

“Being surrounded by others going through the same struggles as me, I felt a part of God’s great plan for my life.”

It wasn’t just the amount of food that was so impressive; it was the quality and care that went into preparing and presenting the meal. It felt like I was diving into a buffet at a country club. Like my family and I would do back home, we prayed over the meal, went back for seconds and thirds, threw the football around outside and watched football on TV. I was able to call home to talk to my wife, kids and parents. I fought back tears after getting off the phone with them, but at least I knew they were safe and everything was okay at home. In fact, things were going more smoothly than if I was there.

In retrospect, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be with a genuinely caring group of people last Thanksgiving. There have been times at family gatherings where I felt alone and separated when in active addiction. Last year, being surrounded by others going through the same struggles as me, I felt a part of God’s great plan for my life. For being away from my home and family on such a big day of the year, I couldn’t have been in a better place. It was nice to see how much care and precision went into every detail of that day for all of us. The staff at Addiction Campuses definitely exceeded my expectations.

“Recovery is the best gift I’ve ever given and received.”

If you or someone you love is considering putting treatment off until after the holidays, I encourage you to get help while you can. My brother did not get the help he needed several years ago and passed away between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We would give anything to have him with us today. Do not keep putting treatment off. This year, give yourself and your family the gift of sobriety. Recovery is the best gift I’ve ever given and received.

John And Family

John and his wife and their three children.

 

Finding fulfillment through family

Check out the latest blog by Bulow Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions. A huge thank you to Matt Bulow and his team, who have taken care of all of John’s prosthetic needs for the last 7 years.

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https://www.bulowops.com/success-stories/2016/11/10/mabry-finding-fulfillment-through-family

For John Mabry, the hardest part of being an amputee was overcoming the mental and emotional effects—the physical part was the easy part.

He became a below-the-knee amputee while still in college. During a ride in a friend’s SUV, a right rear tire blew out, causing the vehicle to roll twelve times. John’s legs became crushed from the impact.

“I literally envisioned the remaining seconds of my life as a scene from a 1920’s-style movie reel,” he said.  “However, instead of thinking my movie would end in true love and conquest, the reality was looking more like a conclusion of indescribable fear, terror, and pain.”

John was faced with the choice of another year of surgery and therapy with no guarantee of complete recovery, or to amputate his right leg below the knee.

“Nothing can really prepare you for the moment when you first look down and see an empty space where your leg used to be,” he said.

He said what helped him the most was being able to talk to another amputee, who showed him that life does go on. Just six weeks later, John walked across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree.

John went on to earn his master’s degree and married his wife, Sarah. He acted in Hollywood for a while, appearing in movies and TV shows as Superbad, NCIS, E.R., JAG, and numerous commercials. He is also credited with inventing a revolutionary product for the prosthetics industry that allows thousands of amputees around the world to live healthier, more active lifestyles.

However, in spite of all these accomplishments, he wasn’t addressing the mental and emotional impacts that his amputation was having on him. He fell into alcoholism, which caused much strife within his family.

Eventually, he sought help for his addition. Today, he says being sober and having a loving family is a greater accomplishment than his inventions or acting ever were. He documents his wacky day-to-day life with his wife and kids on his blog, www.mabryliving.com.

In 2009, he and his family moved from California to Nashville, where he works at Addiction Campuses to help others who struggle with the same issues as he did. When he knew he was moving, he called the first amputee he ever met and asked if he knew any good prosthetists in Nashville. That was how he first came to Bulow Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions.

 

To other new amputees, he says, “It isn’t always as easy as they make it look on TV when they show the elite athletes competing. There is a rollercoaster that we go through, both physically and emotionally, that the average person doesn’t understand.”

This post makes my heart smile – by Sarah Mabry

This post makes my heart smile.

Less than a year ago we were the ones in the ER talking to Addiction Campuses to seek further help for John’s recovery. Fast forward 10 months and now he is speaking at one of Addiction Campuses’ centers about being in support of a life saving legislation for people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues alongside Mississippi State Senator David Parker.

I am glad to see people speaking loudly for such a silent epidemic. Sobriety is a beautiful thing. 

– Sarah Mabry

Rock Bottom Gave Me a Solid Foundation

Addiction is a family disease. One person uses but the whole family suffers. This statement holds true for our family. I may not be the addict, but addiction has messed with my thought process. I know I didn’t cause the addiction, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. However, addiction has often times left me feeling like a worthless failure of a mom and wife because my family was deteriorating in front of my eyes.
My heart was broken back in November when active addiction sneaked back into our home. I knew it wasn’t a choice to crumble as I had three kids who needed me to be strong. Hitting my rock bottom gave me a solid foundation to start rebuilding my life. I was determined to direct my energy to an area in which I believe I am gifted in, art. Art is very therapeutic and something I thoroughly enjoy. No longer was I going to allow addiction to hold me prisoner of JOY. I was set free with my big dreams.


So here I am two days away from launching my ‘Sarah Turnbaugh Mabry’ paintings at a local craft show. These paintings were all inspired from the HOPE, FAITH, and DREAMS I leaned on during a low season in my life.
“On Christ the rock solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Living One Day’s ‘Act’ At A Time

Last night when I was laying in bed I found myself anxious about our upcoming wedding anniversary. So many thoughts and questions crossed my mind:


“Should we even celebrate this year of marriage?”

“What a year it’s been!”

“Do I really even want to acknowledge our anniversary?”

“Of course we are celebrating! We made it through another year.”

“What if I write about our anniversary and then an addiction bomb drops on our family again? I would be so embarrassed!”I shared my thoughts with John and he calmly responded with, “Practice what you preach. One day at a time.” There is so much truth in that statement. I try really hard to take life one day at a time and to not worry about tomorrow…BUT sometimes it’s just hard and I need reminders! It’s easy for me to let the fear of the future take over my thoughts rather than embracing the present. I constantly have to remind myself that today’s curtain closes when I lay my head on the pillow. Thinking of each day of my life as an act in a play helps me live one day at a time. Sometimes I have to sit and mentally imagine that this day,s ‘act’ will be ending soon. 24 hrs is a lot less overwhelming and worrisome than picturing the rest of my life story.


Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so I am going to choose to live it up today, seek joy, and laugh until the curtain closes tonight.

Dream On

To the therapist who told me to stop “dreaming” and live in “reality”,
If “dreaming” looks like raising three kids, managing a home, working as an artist, and standing by my husband’s side while he seeks recovery, then I NEVER want to stop “dreaming” and face the “real world.”
Your words hurt me. Your advice made me doubt myself. Your approach was demeaning. HOWEVER because of you, I’m inspired to chase my dreams harder than I have ever before! I believe in the beauty of my dreams: being the best wife, mother, and ME that I can be and not settling for anything less. 


On this Mother’s Day, I am thankful for my mom who believes in me, sees my worth, and encourages me to be who I “dream” to be! I am also thankful for my three kids who have pushed me, challenged me, and strengthened me in difficult times to keep fighting for my “dreams.” It’s because of my kids that I continue to fight and not sink. I want to thank my kids for bringing out the strongest parts of me that I didn’t even know existed. They have taught me a skill set that not even the best therapist could teach.
So, dream on, therapist! I have three words for you: YOU ARE FIRED!
Xo, Sarah
#dreambig #chasingmydreams #nevergiveup #love #peace #hope #recovery #motherhood