Stigma Shifting on Substance Abuse in Napa Valley, CA

New Surgeon General’s Report Calls for Shift in Attitudes on Substance Abuse

As president Obama prepares to leave office, a recent report issued by the United States Surgeon General outlines the nation’s current addiction crisis in great detail, and offers some solutions for the future. The state of California is no stranger to the damaging effects of addiction, and residents of the state are grappling with chemical dependence, especially as rates of opioid abuse continue to rise.

Advocates for reforming the way that the nation views addiction and chemical dependence are hopeful that this landmark document will awaken a deeper consciousness and understanding of the ways that substance abuse is viewed and treated across the nation. They liken the document to the pivotal 1960s-era Surgeon General’s announcement about the dangers of smoking, which was critical in shifting public opinion about the dangers of tobacco use.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest barriers to individuals receiving the lifesaving care they so desperately need to overcome addiction is that of stigma. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, chemical dependence is still viewed as a shameful choice rather than as a disease. This fact is of key importance in red states where rates of addiction are high, and may be at odds with the beliefs of conservative voters who are not in favor of expanding funding for programs which provide treatment for addiction.

In light of the damaging toll that substance abuse continues to take on California and the nation as a whole, the Surgeon General’s report outlined some recommendations for addressing the problem, some of which are briefly described below:

  • The report advocates increased funding for longer-term access to medications such as buprenorphine and methadone that are used to treat opioid addiction.
  • Traditional 12-Step recovery methods, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can be life changing supports for individuals who are struggling with addiction. However, the report states clearly the difference between these programs and other types of treatment, citing that they can work in harmony, but cannot be used interchangeably.
  • The Surgeon General’s findings support increased taxes on alcohol and limitations to days and times when one can legally purchase alcohol as effective techniques for curbing substance abuse.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the report describes addiction as a disease and not a moral failing of some sort. It explains how a shift in attitude is needed in order to truly combat the staggering hurt and loss that addiction has caused families, individuals, and communities across the country.

In light of the sad statistic that 78 people die from opioid overdose each day in the U.S., it is hard to deny that the nation is long overdue for a change in the way citizens who abuse drugs and alcohol can access treatment. While increased preventative education is key, men and women needing professional help must have better access to treatment centers that can address these concerns. Fortunately, there are options for care for substance abuse in communities such as Napa Valley and across the state of California where men and women can begin working towards recovery.