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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – For the first time ever, the U.S. surgeon general has released a report on the crisis of addiction.

He says substance abuse is one of the country’s most pressing public health problems.

Twenty million Americans struggle with substance abuse, and 78 die each day from an opioid overdose.

These findings in Surgeon General Vivek Murthy report have made drug and alcohol addiction one of his top priorities.

“There are millions of Americans living in the shadows right now who need help, who need treatment,” said Murthy.

Murthy says addiction needs to be treated as a disease, not a character flaw.  He says medication and counseling work and brain science offers hope for recovery.

“What the science tells us very clearly is that addiction is in fact a chronic disease of the brain and we have to treat it with the same urgency, compassion and skill as we would any other chronic illness,” he said.

The surgeon general hopes his report will help turn the tide against substance abuse, just like the landmark report on tobacco in the 1960s helped galvanize the country to fight smoking.

David Gerber is the director of counseling at St. Christopher’s Inn, a treatment center in New York.

He said earlier this year, he agrees that addicts can be helped with the right care.

“Treatment works, we know that,” Gerber said. “For every dollar we spend on treatment, we save taxpayers $7 on other costs, whether it’s hospitalizations, long term illness, incarceration. Treatment works.”

The surgeon general says only one in 10 substance abusers is receiving treatment, and that’s a fact that has to change.

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