Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has made the fight against opioid addiction one of the cornerstones of his administration. Now a study from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office reinforces those initiatives by officially classifying addiction as a disease—Substance Abuse Disorder—and recommending expanded treatment options.
The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis said this is a major step forward in battling the opioid epidemic.
“The report classifies SUD as a chronic condition, like heart disease or diabetes, and recommends parity in health care treatment,” he said.
“And the results of this disease are devastating—it has a terrible impact on crime, health of the individual and the family, quality of life, vehicle crashes, workplace injuries. Most importantly, left untreated it is ultimately fatal.”
The scope of the problem is not being exaggerated. In 2015, more than 3,500 people died from overdoses throughout Pennsylvania—that’s almost three times the number killed last year in traffic deaths.
“The Surgeon General has said, every dollar invested in treatment saves $4 in healthcare costs and lost productivity and another $7 in criminal justice costs. It is both inhumane and fiscally irrational to not fully address the treatment needs of our population and yet, according to the Surgeon General, we have enough treatment nationally to meet only 10 percent of what’s needed,” said Tennis.