The opioid epidemic has been wreaking havoc in the US for many years, and has claimed many lives.
But it appears that President Trump is finally attacking the threat head-on. According to his Twitter feed, “Effective today, my administration officially declared the #OpioidCrisis a NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY under federal law.”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2017
According to US News, the opioid epidemic affects the deaths of 91 Americans every day from overdose. More than 64,000 people lost their lives to these overdoses in 2016.
What’s interesting about this drug epidemic is that overall death via drug overdoses by teens was in decline from 2007 to 2014, before suddenly spiking and constituting the recent opioid epidemic. The biggest problem with the current opioid epidemic is the drugs used are mostly legally obtained prescription drugs that are misused — either intentionally or unintentionally.
According to US News, a survey conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists finds 30 percent of millennials felt it was okay to take opioids without a prescription. It was also revealed that 1 in 10 knew someone who had borrowed opioids from someone who obtained them through a prescription.
CNN reports that while President Trump had originally promised to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, declaring it a national public health emergency is actually a much smarter move given the nature of the epidemic.
National emergency declarations are handled by FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, which is likely tapped out because of the devastating hurricanes experienced this summer. FEMA was created to deal with natural disasters and emergencies of infrastructure anyway.
Rafael Lemaitre, Obama’s former Communications Director for the White House Drug Policy, says using FEMA funding to fight the epidemic would be “a little bit like asking an engineer to bake a cake.”
Declaring it a national public health emergency, while meant to only last for 90 days, can be renewed continually by Congress, allowing for the declaration to continue so long as the problem remains unresolved. This declaration also allows federal agencies to cut the bureaucratic red tape and provide swifter relief using grant money already within their budgets.
President Trump has called for a two-pronged attack targeting both the abuse of prescription opioids and illegally obtained opioids. To fight the prescription abuse, President Trump suggested a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign. This advertising campaign would spread awareness and knowledge to kids and younger adults about the opioid epidemic and hopefully curb abuse with upcoming generations.
President Trump also stressed the need to build a border wall between the US and Mexico and to enact stricter enforcement methods to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the US. According to Trump, “An astonishing 90 percent of the heroin in America comes from south of the border — where we will be building a wall — which will greatly help in this problem.”
Declaring the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency has met rare bipartisan approval as both Democrats and Republican praised the move to fight the drug problem in the US.
It seems few can argue with President Trump’s statements: “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. Never been this way. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”
Hopefully, his declaration will spur politicians and medical professionals to find a way to end the opioid epidemic once and for all. And perhaps they can find the catalyst for this drug abuse and begin assisting Americans that–for whatever reasons–are turning to opioids to solve their problems.