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ICYMI: The Surgeon General has officially declared that substance abuse is a public-health crisis in the United States. This marks a drastic change from the way that addiction has been viewed in the past, as it’s often been seen as a judgement on one’s character.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a statement last week,

“It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing, but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”

The statement was released in tandem with the first ever report on alcohol, drugs and health. The report explained how there is a vast misunderstanding of substance abuse in our society and how many addicts in the U.S. don’t get help.

“Most Americans know someone with a substance use disorder, and many know someone who has lost or nearly lost a family member as a consequence of substance misuse. Yet, at the same time, few other medical conditions are surrounded by as much shame and misunderstanding as substance use disorders. Historically, our society has treated addiction and misuse of alcohol and drugs as symptoms of moral weakness or as a willful rejection of societal norms, and these problems have been addressed primarily through the criminal justice system.”

In other words, it’s time to stop treating addiction like a weakness and start viewing it as the illness it is. The Surgeon General’s report is the first step on the road to closing what the call a “treatment gap” and getting those with substance-use disorder the help they need, instead of merely shipping them off to prison.

Currently 21 million Americans suffer from addiction with more than 65% of inmates suffering without getting the help they need.

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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel (by far!), but when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her hanging with her kitty Tom or tweeting at Sen. Chuck Schumer.