Opioid Abuse in the United States

You couldn’t turn on the news or read a headline without hearing the news that President Donald Trump declared a nationwide public health emergency to combat the opioid abuse issue. Trump said, “This epidemic is a national health emergency. Nobody has seen anything like what is going on now.” Responding to a growing problem, particularly in rural areas, Trump’s declaration will redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat opioid abuse, senior administration officials said. But it does not result in more money to combat the crisis.

“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem.”
President Donald J. Trump

Federal Dollars for Opioid Abuse

The announcement disappointed many who had hopes that the President would have done more in terms of releasing federal dollars towards the opioid crisis. His announcement, while it was a step toward doing something, did not live in to his promise in August to declare “a national emergency” on opioids, which would have prompted the immediate distribution of federal funding to address the issue. Many feel as if it will not be enough to get a handle on a drug crisis that claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016.

Many had hoped that President Trump would declare a national emergency under the Stafford Act, which could unlock more federal resources but that is usually used for more clearly delineated disasters such as recent hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey.

Trump administration officials say that using the Stafford Act would have been too broad and put an undue burden on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. A point of action that will take place immediately is that patients in rural parts of the country will gain access to medication for addiction treatment through telemedicine which is “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology.” The declaration will also allow federal agencies to redirect some existing grant money to focus on opioid-addicted patients. The money will go towards prevention, treatment and recovery services. States and territories were awarded funds based on their individual rates of overdose deaths and unmet need for opioid addiction treatment. And it may make it easier for state Medicaid programs to pay for inpatient treatment for people with substance-abuse disorders.

Opioid Abuse in the U.S.

Part of the reason for President Trump’s interest in the opioid abuse crisis is that it hits close to home for him. Trump’s older brother Fred suffered from alcoholism, and died in 1981 at the young age of 43. In making his appeal, Trump invoked the story of his late brother and the president credited his brother for warning him of the effects of drinking and said a targeted advertising campaign could keep people from becoming addicted to opioids and other drugs. “I learned because of Fred; I learned,” Trump said.

However the public emergency was declared and whether or not federal dollars were released immediately, it is still a relief to know that this opioid epidemic is now being brought to the forefront of our collective consciousnesses and this crisis can no longer be ignored. It can’t be seen as a problem in rural areas. Or a problem with certain socioeconomic groups. It is a national epidemic. And with 91 people people dying every single day from a death related to an opioid addiction, any news is good news.

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