Most of us know that these past few years have brought with them an alarming rise in opioid addiction and overdoses—thanks to the proliferation of painkillers—and scores of articles on the problem have been posted on this very site. Because of this, politicians on the campaign trail began to address the epidemic. And yes, these politicians include Donald Trump. He dreamed up some…well...interesting ideas about how to deal with the problem, one being the infamous wall he vowed to erect along the Mexican-American border (the majority of heroin that hits our great nation is smuggled through Mexico).
Not long after “winning” the election (Trump lost the popular vote by over 2.5 million, and a recount is underway in the rust belt), he started backtracking just a tad on the wall, admitting it might not cover the entire border and that some of it might be just a fence. But the wall isn’t the only solution the President-elect has suggested to curb drug use.
So Here’s the Good News
Shockingly, much of what Trump has said—outside of the whole wall-building thing and his promise to deport illegal drug traffickers—parallels the plans of Hillary Clinton. Trump went on record in a New Hampshire rally saying that he wanted to increase first responders’ access to Narcan, a drug that can essentially bring back an overdoser from the dead. He also vowed to expand drug courts and amp up mandatory treatment sentences, in addition to allowing more physicians to treat opioid addiction through medication assistance.
“It is tragedy enough that so many Americans are struggling with life-threatening addiction,” Trump said during the rally. “We should not compound that tragedy with government policies and bureaucratic rules that make it even harder for them to get help.”
He also pledged to put pressure on the FDA to approve non-addictive pain meds and to put the kibosh on Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that packs a far more powerful punch than Oxy, Percocet, morphine and—yes—heroin.
And Now Some Bad News
Whether you support the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare) or not, the reality is that it has allowed many a struggling drug addict fund treatment. Trump’s repeatedly vowed to repeal the ACA, which could throw a major wrench into helping opiate addicts get clean. It does seem that he’s back-peddled a bit on repealing Obamacare (along with some other biggies—like suing Hillary Clinton and making torture legal), saying he wants to preserve some of it. But his recent nomination of Representative Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services (who’s drooling to repeal Obamacare) only strengthens the likelihood that our President-elect will try to gut it.
The good news within the bad news is that even if Republicans in Congress do cut the ACA, they’re not likely to actually cut off Americans’ benefits any time soon—a process they call “Repeal and Delay”—with hopes of putting an alternative plan in place prior to kicking Obamacare to the curb.
So What’s the Verdict?
I may not be a Trump fan, but at least the guy acknowledges the opioid problem. At the same time, doing so was politically advantageous given much of the drug crisis hits poor white rural communities in the rust belt, the land of some of his biggest supporters. Still, it’s a deadly crisis and public health issue that, I believe, the government should certainly try to end. More progressive actions like funding needle exchanges and legalizing safe injection sites, as other civilized—I mean industrialized—nations have done, also seems imperative. These injection sites have proven to not only prevent drug overdose, but to also promote recovery.
As of yet, Trump hasn’t appointed anyone to serve as Drug Czar over the country, though the current one—Michael Botticelli—seems hopeful that Trump will work hard toward overturning the crisis. So all we can do is wait this one out. Despite Trump’s publicized plans, we really don’t know what’s going to go down once he’s sworn in. The guy is clearly as unpredictable as an acid trip, and our opioid crisis is nothing to be flippant about.
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