Substance use disorders and the harms associated with these diseases are a serious, growing public health problem in the United States. Nearly 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2015, and more than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. In total, this translates to 91 lives lost each day from a prescription or illicit opioid overdose.
Yet these deaths do not reflect the full public health impact of substance use disorders. Individuals who misuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop chronic health conditions, experience poorer health outcomes, and have contact with the criminal justice system. The costs are high: The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that illicit drug and alcohol abuse accounts for more than $400 billion annually related to health care, lost work productivity, and crime.
More than 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder. However, in 2015, only about 10 percent of these individuals received any kind of treatment—whether through self-help programs, inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, or doctors’ offices. Effective care, including access to programs that provide medication-assisted treatment, remains elusive for many patients.
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