Report: 1 in 7 will have suffer from addiction

Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 18, 2016

A new report by the U.S. Surgeon General called the county's addiction epidemic "one of America's most pressing public health concerns".

The report, released Thursday said 1 in 7 people in the U.S. will likely develop a substance use disorder "at some point in their lives".  It also said on 10% of addicts actually receive the necessary treatment.  It attributes that statistic, in part, to addiction treatment options being "largely separate" from the rest of the health care system.

It's a national issue and Western New York has seen its impact.  The Erie County Department of Health said 296 people have died so far in 2016 from suspected opioid related overdoses.  A 24 hour addiction hotline was opened August 1 and has already taken more than 900 calls, about half from addicts looking for help.

The number for that hotline is 831-7007.

Local experts say one of the most difficult things is overcoming the stigma associated with addiction.

"We have to look at these people as damaged individuals and offer them hope and help," said Richard Blondell, Vice Chair for Addiction Medicine for University at Buffalo.  "Not judgment and ridicule."

"It's a lifelong disease," said Avi Israel, President of Save the Michaels of the World.  "But yet we point fingers at those people and we call them junkies and dope fiends.  They never asked for that.  Nobody wants to get addicted."

Israel and Blondell both said more of a focus needs to be put on treating the root of the problem and preventing addiction in the first place.

Blondell works at the detox center at ECMC and said people from all walks of life come through the doors.

"Over 40 percent of people became addicted to drugs through a legitimate prescription that was given to them by their doctor," he said.

"We're really just treating symptoms," said Isreal.  "We're not doing anything to stop addiction from happening in the first place."