Last month former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned when a Washington Post piece unearthed her purchase of tobacco stocks after she accepted her position. The problematic nature and questionable optics of the nation’s chief public health official financially benefitting from a substance that kills nearly 500,000 people a year need not be belabored; however, they do raise questions of just how seriously our leaders are taking substance abuse and addiction care in the US. Last year, over 64,000 Americans died from drug overdose, which is now one of the leading causes of death for those under 50.
The policy that governs addiction care in the US is contingent upon the people we appoint to develop and implement it. As more and more Americans succumb to overdose and new addiction threats render more and more of the country vulnerable, it’s critical that we have the right leaders in place to drive sensible and effective solutions. This means taking a look at the liberality with which doctors dispense powerful prescription opioids and benzodiazepines as well as expanding treatment access to patients who need help for drug and alcohol addiction. Only a fraction of those battling substance abuse disorder receives adequate treatment.
In a time where substance abuse affects every portion of the American population, addiction care in the US is officially everybody’s business. It requires a thoughtful, experienced and realistic stewardship. The quality and insight of the person governing the CDC and other public health organizations directly translates to the quality of care we our loved ones receive when they enter substance abuse treatment; this is not an abstract concept. In a time where sensible solutions to American substance abuse are already slow to arrive, we simply can’t afford to have anyone but the best and most experienced minds driving policy.