US Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, has come out on the side of drugs in a swinging victory for advocates of decriminalization.
He believes that drug abuse is less of a crime and more of a mental health problem - and that it should be treated accordingly.
“I am issuing a new call to action to end the public health crisis of addiction,” he said. "We would never tolerate a situation where only one in 10 people with cancer or diabetes gets treatment, and yet we do that with substance-abuse disorders," he told The Washington Post.
Shockingly, of the 21 million Americans affected by substance use disorders, 12.5 million of those are due to abusing prescription painkillers. This is incredible, and new, that people can get such hard drugs, legally. Also, in 2015, there were 28,500 opioid overdose deaths, compared to just 1/4 of that in 1999. The ease of access has called a new need for treatment.
“Science tells us clearly that addiction is a disease of the brain,” Murthy said at a summit held in Los Angeles. “It affects the circuitry of our brain that controls decision-making, impulse control and our stress and reward systems.”
Sending people to jail for it is not the answer, he says.
“Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it’s one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency," says Murthy.
He has said that addiction treatment should be classified as part of your health care and not as a crime. Big news from the Surgeon General.