A Good Start: President Trump and the Opioid Abuse Crisis

Pharmacy TimesDecember 2017 Heart Health
Volume 83
Issue 12

In late October 2017, President Donald J. Trump declared the opioid abuse problem in America a national emergency.

In late October 2017, President Donald J. Trump declared the opioid abuse problem in America a national emergency. In his announcement, he expressed concern for the thousands of addicts and their plight. Trump also discussed increased federal enforcement and referenced a recent indictment of Chinese citizens who are allegedly involved in the production and trafficking of fentanyl, which makes its way to the United States and kills our citizens.

As could be predicted when any president of either party makes a major announcement, there were detractors. Some criticized Trump for mentioning the crisis 2 months ago but just now deciding to declare an emergency; in other words, what took so long? Others thought that he didn’t go far enough and that the declaration was useless because it did not mandate any funding to fight the crisis. In addition, no mention was made of the use of naloxone, a lifesaving medication, or the expanded use of controlled medication to treat addiction.

I would have liked to have heard legitimate pain patients mentioned and the fact that we are going to do everything we can to make sure we don’t negatively affect them while we get a handle on the opioid problem. I rarely, if ever, hear pain patients mentioned when anyone is discussing opioids. I wonder why that is, as they are the people who consume most prescription opioids and are the ones we should all be trying to protect.

Although opioids were mentioned as a group, I continue to see statistics that heroin and illicit fentanyl dominated the opioid overdose-related deaths in the fourth quarter of 2016, and I think that continued to be the case in 2017. Illicit fentanyl is easy to produce and is much stronger than heroin, making it a drug that will cause an even bigger percentage of overdose deaths in the United States. Amazingly, some still confuse illicit fentanyl and its analogs with legitimate fentanyl and carfentanil, making news inquiries to the local zoo to see whether they are the source of this drug that is killing addicts.

As I have mentioned in several other articles, there is no easy resolution to the addiction issues in the United States and the influx of illicit heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil. However, Trump did something that no other president, to my knowledge, has done, and that is declare a national emergency.

His message was strong on dealing with the plight of American addicts. Trump showed great concern for their predicament and indicated that he wants to make treatment more available and do all he can to remove regulations or restrictions that stand in the way. In addition, law enforcement and drug education were mentioned, which rounds out the 3 most important elements needed to fight this problem in our country.

I have been around the drug problem for almost 5 decades and have seen drug scourges come and go, but the opioid addiction crisis is like no other. It is producing incredible overdose death statistics and overwhelming and unprecedented collateral damage.

There is a legitimate uproar about this continuing problem, but—as I continue to mention—let’s work together to help solve it. Ridiculing Trump for proclaiming something that no other president has done because one doesn’t agree with his politics is counterproductive and, frankly, reveals people’s own true motives.

So, was Trump’s announcement the answer to all our opioid abuse problems? Of course not. But though some parts of a plan may appear to be lacking on the surface, let’s give him and his commission the respect they deserve while they try to address the issue. In the meantime, let’s do all we can to assist the president in fighting this crisis.

Cmdr John Burke is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement and the past president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. He can be reached by email at burke@rxdiversion.com or via rxdiversion.com.

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