Now that scores of Americans have been dying from opioid overdoses for several years now, President Donald Trump finally declared the opioid addiction crisis a national emergency. He also made it clear that his administration plans on spending a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on solving the epidemic. He also referred to the epidemic as something unlike anything “we have ever had”, and stated that when he was growing up they had LSD and other generations have had their drugs, but none of them compare to what has happened in this country over the past four or five years with opioids.
This declaration of emergency certainly isn’t going to save us, but it is a step in the right direction. Declaring an event or a problem a national emergency isn’t just a matter of paying lip service to concerned citizens. This vital step in our nation’s healing process will free up much-needed funds and resources to help combat this issue.
Lots of people accuse Donald Trump of being ignorant or ill informed on the subject of addiction, perhaps there is some truth to this. In fact I believe it’s worse than that; I think he is wrong on addiction for all the wrong reasons. It’s one thing if you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself, or if you have simply never been unlucky enough to experience the effects of this illness first hand. But Donald Trump had a family member (his older brother Freddy) who struggled with alcoholism for years until it unfortunately and tragically took his life at the young age of 43. Due to this experience Donald Trump has refrained from ever drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. Since his older brother’s early death from alcoholism has scarred him so badly, one would assume that Donald Trump has quite an empathetic heart for addicts, but what has he actually said on this issue?
On issues such as Cannabis, Donald has demonstrated some intelligence, stating that it “should be a state issue, state by state”. This suggests that we don’t have to worry about Trump attempting to interfere with marijuana legalization in many states. Nominating drug war hardliners like Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to lead the Justice Department and giving commendations to Vice President Mike Pence for enacting mandatory minimum drug sentences isn’t cause for celebration. As far as how he believes we could solve the issue of addiction specifically, Donald recently said
Donald Trump has stated that if we simply enforce the drug laws more vigorously we could solve the problem. From the looks of it it seems “the Donald” has been asleep, or not paying attention to the last 40 years of the war on drugs. We have been using the exact same rhetoric, policing techniques and punitive measures with the same results; more drugs of higher purity and lower cost. I hate to resort to conspiratorial accusations but after this many decades of the same terrible and costly public policies there has to be someone behind the scenes who wants it to go on like this for as long as possible.
Show me the money
Now that we can expect a steady flow of cash and resources from the Trump administration to help clean up this mess we call addiction, this begs the question; how should we spend our money? If you have ever read any of my other articles pertaining to the drug war you know that I think it is one of the most detrimental public policies in modern history. That being said, the statistics are available for anyone to take a look at; we have the highest prison population in the entire world (land of the free?) and nearly 150 people die every day from opioid addiction. Clearly locking people up isn’t working. If it were, we would be the most drug free nation to ever exist.
We need to steer this ship
The truth is now is our time; we need to do our part and let our voices be heard. The Trump administration needs to consult the experts and implement a plan that runs counter to everything else we have tried. The punitive measures and criminal justice system have had their chance, and they have failed. It is time we let the medical and scientific community have a crack at it. We need this money to go towards harm reduction efforts; Methadone and Suboxone clinics, needle exchange programs, Vivitrol and free Narcan for starters. State funded treatment centers also need to be a huge part of how we invest these new funds in solving this crisis. We also need resources allocated towards education and awareness; we need to be in the public schools intervening on at-risk youth, informing children of the risks with honest information, not scare tactics and propaganda. If every dollar we spent went towards these measures addiction would not be eradicated completely, it just never will be gone forever. In a perfect world sure, but in reality we can only hope to do the best we can, and decrease the amount of new addicts being formed, treat the addicts currently suffering and of course educate everyone else.
So with Donald trump telling us to tell kids drugs are bad and we need heavier policing it seems like it’s the same rhetoric, different decade. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the implications for how resources will be allocated with this administration’s take on drug addiction. I’m glad and somewhat optimistic that he declared it a national emergency and did what was necessary to increase federal funding to solve this problem. I’d love to be optimistic based on this news alone, but unfortunately I hate to say that with this kind of talk it sounds like we can expect more of the same results. Perhaps more of the same rhetoric and tactics will fix the problem this time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Let’s just hope Donald does something different this time.