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Nation's Top Doctor Calls For New Approach To Addiction

Peter Haden

The nation’s top doctor is calling for a change in the way America addresses substance abuse.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy aims to remove the public stigma of addiction by defining it as a neurological brain disorder that needs to be addressed like any other chronic illness.

His new report is titled, . It spells out the cost of substance abuse: one in seven Americans will face such disorders, at an economic impact of $442 billion a year - topping diabetes at $245 billion.

“There's so much evidence that underscores that there are circuits in the brain particularly in vulnerable individuals that play a key role in you know sort of going awry and making people have these kinds of problems,” said Dr. John Newcomer, Vice Dean for Research and Innovation at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

Newcomer said the report has particular relevance to Florida.

“It's one of the states that has seen rising rates of problems relative to opiate use — and that includes increases in deaths,” Newcomer said.

The Surgeon General’s report calls for a multi-faceted approach of prevention, medication, social support and counseling.

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Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.