Obama Affirms at Drug Summit That Addiction Is Disease, Not Moral Failure

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Watch: Justin Luke Riley's candid approach to recovery from opioid and other addictions.

ATLANTA — President Obama addressed the country’s growing opioid addiction epidemic at a panel discussion in Atlanta Tuesday, stressing to the 2,000-plus listeners that addiction is an illness and not a moral shortcoming.

He also emphasized that more people are dying each year from opioid overdose than from car crashes.

The panel, moderated by CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, featured a young man who shared his story of becoming addicted to opioids as a youth, according to attendees.

The president’s participation in the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit elevates awareness and discussion of the national problem.

“It’s really important to have a president talk about addiction as a disease rather than as a moral failure,” said Rebecca Salay of Washington, District of Columbia, who was at the panel discussion. “There’s no one more important to influence the conversation.”

Two weeks ago, that agency recommended that doctors first try aspirin or ibuprofen to treat pain. While nonbinding, that recommendation is likely to be followed, many experts said at the time, because of the weight of the CDC.

The CDC has identified several groups who are most at risk for heroin addiction, and one of those groups is young people 18 to 25.

The percentage increase of heroin users in that age group from 2002-04 and 2011-13 is higher than for any other age group — 109 percent.

In addition, deaths from opioid overdose in that age group has skyrocketed.

In the face of such startling numbers, medical professionals and those who work with young people are seeking solutions.

Sam Zamirripa, an attendee from Atlanta whose company Intent Solutions has created a dispenser that helps monitors when and how much medication a person is taking, said he supports Obama’s efforts to destigmatize addiction.

“Most important, we can’t blame them (people with substance abuse disorders]. We have to treat them with respect,” he said.

One thought on “Obama Affirms at Drug Summit That Addiction Is Disease, Not Moral Failure

  1. Please let President Obama know how grateful and appreciative I am of his tireless work to improve the lives, health system, health of his people and that of the entire world.
    I am a qualified health professional and am aware of all he does and he changes and saves lives.
    After learning of how two states in America were able to implement Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) and eliminate seclusion and restraints in Psychiatric Hospital I have followed the paradigm for years – I am also very proud of my country Australia and the President of our Blue Knot Foundation, Dr Cathy Kezelman AO – for developing with her colleagues the first Australian guidelines which gained international recognition – for translating TIC ideology into practice on the ground.
    I know President Obama always speaks for the national interest of his country (as do all our world leaders) and cares very much about humanity in general.
    This takes enormous bravery and courage as the national interest is not always at the time the popular stance to take – and President Obama unifies people and instigates change and I admire and respect him very much.
    I also like how he collaborates with other countries – what he has done with Cuba is beautiful – and likewise President Raul Castro President of Cuba with America.
    It also meant a lot to see the United States of America discuss recent security issues and sit-down with President Putin of Russia – and naming President Putin as the 2015 “Person of the Year.”
    I also loved how the Chicago Bulls were allowed to play basketball in North Korea – as that meant so much to the Supreme Leader and Chief of State Kim Jong-Un and his people.
    As in my country Australia with PM Turnbull and First Lady Lucy, I find all leaders and their families around the world, including the Monarchies, Heads of Church, Chiefs, Prime Ministers, Presidents and Heads of Empires very inspiring and am grateful for everyone.