President Donald Trump told reporters the opioid epidemic a national emergency, but his administration’s approach to drugs is as chaotic, confusing and contradictory as everything else the incompetent Republican billionaire has done since entering the White House.
That is what happens when people elect leaders who are sadly ignorant of the facts and unfamiliar with the process for getting things done.
For months, Trump has disappointed public health experts, sought to revive failed law enforcement tactics, wants to cut Medicaid by nearly $1 trillion, favors abstinence advocacy and his health secretary disparaged effective addiction treatments, but now he seems to be adopting recommendations of a commission consistent with the drug policy under Obama.
The lack of concrete policy is inexcusable given the widespread consensus going back to last year’s surgeon general report on what can be done.
SInce May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been reinvigorating the failed tactics of Nixon’s Drug War by bringing back the harsh sentences for low-level drug offenses.
“Donald Trump wants to drag us back into one of the most catastrophic social policies in this nation’s history: the war on drugs,” said Don Winslow, author of The Power of the Dog and The Cartel. “The so-called War on Drugs quadrupled our prison population (overwhelmingly and disproportionately composed of minorities), handed out life sentences to nonviolent offenders, militarized our police forces, promoted the disgusting concept of for-profit prisons, shredded the Bill of Rights and cost taxpayers upward of a trillion dollars.”
“The opioid crisis is an emergency and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Trump said on Thursday while vacationing at his golf resort in New Jersey. “We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”
Trump made the statements about a week after a White House commission on the opioid crisis led by Governor Chris Christie recommended the president declare it a national emergency. Misuse and addiction has become a national epidemic, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 91 Americans die daily from opioid overdose.
The commission said such a declaration would direct more resources and attention on the crisis plaguing communities across the country.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Tuesday said the crisis “can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president.”
Price, who favors faith-based recovery programs, raised an uproar in May after saying that medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction in which addicts are weaned off heroin with Suboxone or methadone is ineffective while suggesting there’s a cure for addiction — despite research on the contrary.
Opioid addiction is a chronic relapsing disease similar to diabetes and hypertension, according to Gail D’Onofrio, a professor of emergency medicine and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale University, who said: “It is not ‘cured,’ but can be managed effectively.”
The treatments Price disparaged have been endorsed by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the National Governor’s Association and many other leading expert organizations.
Prescription opioid dependence, abuse and overdose cost the United States $78.5 billion in 2013, according to CDC research.
The 21st Century Cures Act, which Congress approved last year, is already sending states $1 billion over two years for opioid addiction treatment and prevention, but experts say it is far short of what is needed.
After Trump focused on ramping up law enforcement, about increased prosecutions, enforcing longer jail sentences Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, whose only child died in July from an apparent drug overdose, disputed that kind of ‘tough talk’ on the issue saying, “I don’t think that we’re going to arrest our way out of this.”
Sessions is rolling back bipartisan criminal-justice reform efforts aimed at reducing the nation’s unprecedented prison population by scaling back harsh punishments from the tough-on-crime era.
In a statement shortly after Sessions’ directive was issued, former Attorney General Eric Holder castigated his successor’s move. “The policy announced today is not tough on crime,” he said. “It is dumb on crime. It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.”
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