Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, sent a letter to 2.3 million American health professionals asking them to lead a national movement to “turn the tide” on the nation’s prescription opioid epidemic.  After visiting communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, Dr. Murthy’s appeal to clinicians was personal:


“Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses. I meet families too ashamed to seek treatment for addiction. And I will never forget my own patient whose opioid use disorder began with a course of morphine after a routine procedure.”

Dr. Murthy wrote that health care providers “have the unique power to end the opioid crisis.”  He asked providers to commitment to this cause by pledging to:

  1. Educate ourselves to treat pain safely and effectively.
  2. Screen our patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment.
  3. Talk about and treat addition as a chronic illness, not a moral failing.

Consistent with these aims, the letter also included a pocket guide to help physicians implement the CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines.

This letter marks the first time that the Surgeon General has reached out to health care professionals directly.  Next, Dr. Murthy will be writing to the nation when the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs and health is released later this year.

More information about the Surgeon General’s appeal to clinicians to “turn the tide” on the prescription drug epidemic can be found in the HHS press release.