National Recovery Month Highlights SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use

By John Lavitt 09/15/15

Michael Botticelli was on hand for NRM's inaugural event last Friday.

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illicit drug use infographic

At the 26th annual observance of National Recovery Month (NRM) on September 10, Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, proclaimed, "I stand here today as one of the millions of Americans who are in recovery. We are living proof that treatment works and recovery is possible."

Speaking at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) press conference on September 11, Botticelli communicated a passion for recovery. Rather than being labeled Drug Czar, Botticelli chose to designate himself as Recovery Czar. The goal also was to emphasize the post-Affordable Care Act focus on evidence-based results and effective treatment options.

Beyond celebrating National Recovery Month, Friday’s event also highlighted the SAMHSA release of the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) results. Distributed widely, the report offers a look at the current substance use and abuse status of the country. Despite the passion for recovery expressed at the event, the findings in the latest NSDUH report are a mixed bag.

Referring to the NSDUH, Botticelli remarked that 90% of teens do not use illegal drugs, a definite step in the right direction. Despite the improvement for teens, substance abuse disorder and illicit drug use remain serious problems for adults across the country. With the trend towards the legalization of marijuana, it remains the most commonly abused drug across the country. Up almost an entire percentage point since 2013, 8.4% of Americans now claim to be current users.

While the non-medical use of pain relievers continues to be the second-most commonly used illicit drug, there was a slight decline in users in 2014. What is more problematic, however, particularly in light of a serious jump in injection-related HCV and HIV, heroin use has increased by 100%, from 0.1% in 2013 to 0.2% in 2014.

Although she noted she was the only speaker lacking personal experience with addiction, Kana Enomoto, acting SAMHSA administrator, highlighted the difficulties ahead. “There are many challenges we need to meet in addressing the behavioral health issues facing our nation,” noted Enomoto.

She went on to explain in her closing remarks that, “…the findings from the NSDUH report aren’t just numbers. They translate to real people and to real lives ... The faces and voices behind the data are people who can achieve recovery.”

The passion for recovery as expressed by Botticelli at the beginning of the day continued to be the focus until the end. The question now is how to effectively back up that passion in practice.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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