The Fray lead vocalist shares addiction experiences

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Rock stars, politicians and medical experts joined with thousands of people on the National Mall Sunday, rallying to raise awareness about the epidemic of addiction.

Sponsored by Facing Addiction, an organization dedicated to combating the public health crisis, the UNITE to Face Addiction demonstration was the first-ever gathering in Washington highlighting the shortcomings of recovery and addiction recognition programs.

The non-profit Facing Addiction group supports the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill that aims to expand prevention and education efforts while also promoting treatment and recovery.

"It's time to get it through committee, to get to a floor, to get to a vote, to be able to help the people who you're here speaking for today," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, advocating for the legislation.

More than 23 million Americans suffer from diagnosed addictions, according to Facing Addiction. The rally revealed a public demand for a conversation to change the perception of substance abuse addiction.

"Today is not going to change everything," said Isaac Slade, co-founder of rock band The Fray, who performed on the National Mall. "You can't just slap a band aid on it."

Other performers included Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, and Steven Tyler.

Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore, pressed strongly for addiction to be recognized as a chronic disease.

"Nationwide, only 11 percent of people who have addiction are able to get the treatment that they need," Wen said in an interview. "It's just not perceived [as a disease] by the general public."

The entire ensemble of artists sang The Beatles' "Come Together" to cap the event.

"Today represents a statement that every single one us should be making every morning when we get up," Slade said. "That I'm not going to numb, I'm not going to hide. I'm going to face today. I'm going to be here now."