Trump Promises to 'Win' Fight Against Opioid Abuse in US

Violet Powell
August 10, 2017

President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised to increase law enforcement and strengthen border security to "beat this awful situation" of drug abuse across the country, but he did not declare a national public health emergency as Gov. Chris Christie suggested and he made no mention of the governor's work on a commission the president created to address rampant heroin and opioid use.

After meeting with the President about the issue, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters at a press conference that Mr Trump "is fully engaged".

President Donald Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, in an interim report released last week, recommended the President declare an emergency.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in more than 33,000 U.S. deaths in 2015, the latest year for which data are available, and estimates show the death rate has continued rising.

A declaration of emergency would allow the Trump presidency to expedite legislation created to ameliorate the addiction crisis, while simultaneously drawing political attention to the problem. "If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off", Trump told reporters at the clubhouse at his private golf club in New Jersey.

The opioid abuse crisis, on the other hand, has slowly emerged over decades and affects regions around virtually the entire country.

"Physicians are just doing things all over the map", says Dr. Michael Barnett, an assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and one of the study's authors.

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"We're also working with law enforcement officers to protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities".

Prescription painkillers and heroin contributed to an estimated 60,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, a 19% surge over the previous year, according to an estimate compiled by the New York Times. The crisis, they said, has moved beyond politics.

During a briefing at his New Jersey golf club, the president said opioid overdose deaths have almost quadrupled since 1999, while prosecutions have gone down in recent years. But it's even more surprising given the growing body of evidence that cannabis could help abate the opioid epidemic.

"First, [an emergency declaration] lets states and localities that are designated disaster zones to access money in the federal Disaster Relief Fund, just like they could if they had a tornado or hurricane", said Humphreys.

"We can not arrest our way out of this problem", he said. He spoke about the need in particular to curb the over-prescription of opioids from doctors.

Early in his administration, Trump appointed a commission to suggest ways to combat and treat the opioid epidemic.

"It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will", the report said. Price, briefing reporters at a hotel about 15 minutes away from Trump's golf course, said numerous report's recommendations for increased funding and attention can be accomplished without such a declaration, which is normally reserved for a natural disaster such as a hurricane or for a more focused public health problem such as an infectious disease outbreak.

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