South Florida treatment community applauds Surgeon General's report on addiction

Calls on cultrual shift in treating addiction
Posted at 5:24 PM, Nov 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 17:48:25-05

The U.S. Surgeon General is calling attention to the growing addiction epidemic in this country.

“We have to recognize that addiction is not a moral failing. It's a chronic illness,” said Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, MD.

A new report finds one in seven Americans will face drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime. But only 10 percent of those now addicted receive treatment.

The surgeon general said besides allocating more money to prevention and treatment programs, Americans need to treat addiction as a disease, not the trait of a weak-willed person.

“We know how to solve this problem. Prevention works. Treatment is effective and recovery is possible for everyone,” Murthy said

This report couldn't come soon enough for leaders in the treatment community.

Cities like Delray Beach have seen the number of people overdosing shatter previous records. Police responded to 96 overdoses in the month of October, compared to 33 in October 2015. 

“I always felt like an outsider,” said James Fata.

He found an escape at the end of a syringe.

“I didn’t have to deal with anything,” Fata said.

Soon his addiction to heroin took control. Relationships ended, legal troubles mounted. On his third visit to the hospital, his parents had one message.

“They told me they expected me to die and I said I want to get help now,” he remembered.

Now three years sober, Fata is helping others. He works at Life of Purpose Treatment Center in Boca Raton. The center helps young adults conquer substance abuse and addiction while allowing them to continue their college education.

“The magnitude of it is unbelievable,” said Executive Director Chad Koller.

He added the U.S. Surgeon General's report is spot on. He believes healthcare professionals need to treat addiction for what it is: a neurological disease.

“I think that's how we have to look at it if we're really going to tackle this in a meaningful and impactful way,” Koller pointed out.

Fata said changing the approach to addiction will encourage more people to get help and feel like less of an outsider.

“What he's put out is literally music to my ears,” Fata said.

It was a surgeon general's report in 1964 that changed the way Americans perceive cigarettes and tobacco. Already some are saying this report could have similar impacts on how Americans perceive addiction.