For several years, Maine drug agents and counselors have talked about the state’s drug crisis.
This week, the U.S. Surgeon General issued the first of its kind national report on the country-wide drug epidemic.
It might be a 429-page report, but according to Bangor’s public health director, one of the most significant statements contained in it is that drug addiction is as much a disease as any other medical illness.
“I love that the surgeon general finally came out and said it’s a public health crisis, because I think for a very long time we’ve considered it a criminal issue. And I think police department’s have long understood it as a public health crisis,” said Patty Hamilton, director of Bangor’s Public Health Department.
The Surgeon General says recognizing drug addiction as a brain disease is a monumental step.
During an interview Friday afternoon, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, “Then we start to understand why it’s so challenging for people with addictions to resist some of the cravings. We understand why they experience withdrawal symptoms. We understand why they struggle to make decisions to stick to commitments to stay away form alcohol or, you know, other substances of misuse.”
Another critical component of the report stresses the need for health care organizations to provide plans as would be the case for any disease.
“There’s some good, compelling information in there that says that having separate centers for treatment is actually creating obstacles to good care,” Hamilton said during a Friday morning interview.
Plus, as many cops, drug agents and health care professionals say, more treatment centers are needed.
“My hope is that in the next administration, that we can continue to focus on that need to expand treatment. That we will invest more. So that states like Maine and others can have more treatment facilities and train more clinicians to provide treatment. And can ultimately get help to those who need it,” Murthy said.
Murthy and Hamilton agree removing the stigma surrounding drug addiction is long overdue.
“I really want to say that sort of normalizing it in health care is a good first step,” said Hamilton.