Secretary Gary Tennis: Surgeon General's Report on Addiction Helps Galvanize Action in Opioid Epidemic

Thursday, November 24, 2016 General News
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HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 23, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report on addiction released by the

Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, will raise awareness and help galvanize action toward getting treatment for people with substance use disorder (SUD), said Pennsylvania
Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis.

"This first-ever report on addiction by the nation's top doctor elevates public awareness and treatment of drug and alcohol addiction as a disease," said Tennis. "The report classifies SUD as a chronic condition, like heart disease or diabetes, and recommends parity in health care treatment.

"We are in the middle of the worst opioid epidemic in history, and this report confirms it," said Tennis. "Many Pennsylvanians know someone suffering from the disease of addiction or they may be suffering themselves. 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."

Last year, more than 3,500 people died in the Commonwealth from overdoses, said Tennis, surpassing the number of people who died from automobile accidents. He said the fatality rate for 2016 will be even higher.

More than 27 million people in the United States reported current use of illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs, while more than 66 million people reported binge drinking, according to the report. Deaths from drug overdoses across the nation hit a record of 47,055 in 2014, propelled by prescription painkiller and heroin abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"In addition to being a public health and societal crisis, the report underscored that this epidemic has a huge economic impact on our country," said Tennis.

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health found the estimated annual economic impact of drug abuse is $193 billion, while the estimated economic impact of alcohol abuse is $249 billion. Treatment is effective for both helping individuals enter and stay in recovery, said Tennis.

"As 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." 

The report, said Tennis, includes evidence that prevention, treatment, recovery policies and programs do work and encourages communities to organize coalitions to determine local levels of risk and protective factors and substance misuse problems.

"Pennsylvania is already following recommendations in this report," said Tennis, who cited initiatives underway in the Commonwealth including:

  • Naloxone use to reverse overdoses: Through the support and partnerships established by DDAP, municipal police departments in 66 of 67 counties are carrying Narcan, a drug that is used to reverse overdoses, while in 18 counties, all law enforcement departments are carrying Narcan and using it to save lives.  Police officers across Pennsylvania have over 1,800 saves with naloxone.
  • Drug take-back boxes: Under this DDAP-initiated project, over 500 permanent take-back boxes are located in municipal police stations for Pennsylvanians to drop off unwanted opioids and other prescription drugs:, where a thousand tons of unwanted drugs have been collected and destroyed in Pennsylvania since the program started in late 2014.
  • Warm-handoff strategy: Overdose survivors meet with counselors to encourage them to enter treatment before they are released from the hospital.
  • Medicaid Expansion: Governor Tom Wolf reversed 10 years of funding cuts to drug and alcohol treatment by expanding Medicaid, resulting in a significant increase in treatment and a tripling of license applications for new treatment programs in the state.  
  • Prescribing Guidelines: Pennsylvania leads the nation with seven sets of specialized pain prescribing guidelines designed to limit the use of opioids and steer health care practitioners more toward less dangerous but equally effective methods of alleviating pain. 
  • New opioid legislation: New laws signed recently by Governor Tom Wolf will limit the amounts of opioids that can be prescribed; require all prescribers and dispensers of opioids to include the information in a statewide database, and require medical schools and other facilities to provide education on pain management and opioid prescribing.

"I applaud Surgeon General Murthy for calling for a 'culture change' in the way we address addictions. It's time to get rid of negative stereotypes," said Tennis. "Addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing.

"Stigmatizing the disease, so that our loved ones feel too ashamed to get help, only increases the number of Pennsylvanians who will die unnecessarily," said Tennis. "By uniting in the fight against stigmatizing attitudes and policies, we are taking a stand for safer, healthier, happier families and communities."

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Click here to Download/View audio and video for your news stories. See Gary Tennis, DDAP Secretary, talk about Pennsylvania's opioid epidemic and state strategies that supplement the Surgeon General's report.

MEDIA CONTACT: DDAP: Carol Gifford, 717-547-3314 or 717-304-0079 (cell),           


To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs


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