When New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, a governor who has dedicated the last year of his governorship to getting the opiate epidemic under control, was appointed chair of Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, families in crisis due to addiction felt hopeful.
Said Christie on behalf of the commission: “We have a 9/11-scale loss every three weeks. We hope that the President declares a public health emergency in this country.”
About 75 percent of those lost to drug addiction every three weeks die due to use of opiate drugs. It is not just heroin and painkillers that are contributing to the high rates of death; now, fentanyl is the chief problem. This synthetic opiate is 100 times more powerful than morphine, and it is often added to heroin in order to increase its potency.
Christie also emphasized the fact that about 80 percent of people who developed a heroin addiction started their path by taking prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin.
For these reasons, part of the commission’s recommendations included increased education requirements on the topic for physicians who prescribe painkillers, and required continuing education for physicians and other therapeutic and medical professionals who are already certified.
Trump’s response to Christie’s request to identify the problem as a national public health emergency? Initially, “no.”
Though Trump promised “by working with our healthcare and law enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win,” he initially ignored the recommendation to call the opiate epidemic a national public health emergency and offered no further suggestions on how best to handle the problem.
Two days later, the White House issued the following statement: “Building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Donald J. Trump has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”
In 2015, the latest year for which national data is available, more than 33,000 Americans died of overdoses that involved use of opiate drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Every day, about 100 Americans join that number.
Families who are facing addiction are unsure whether or not the federal government is truly going to invest the resources necessary to make positive changes in the coming months and years. It was made clear to politicians who were on the campaign trail last year that the nature of this problem is serious and that the person who took office would need to make it a top priority. Unfortunately, Trump has for the most part tied the problem to his focus on our southern border, claiming that his policies there are serving to stop drugs from coming in. The fact is that while drug interdiction is an important part of the puzzle, it does nothing to help people who are currently living with addiction and in need of comprehensive treatment that can help them avoid overdose.
Connecting with a program that offers intensive and personalized treatment is the only effective response to helping people break free from addictive behaviors and create new patterns of response to emotional issues, mental health disorders, and trauma. For those who are addicted to opiates, this can often include: