July 31, 2017 Addiction

The White House Response to the Opioid Epidemic

Our country is facing a lot of obstacles right now. The news seems to come up with something new every day that we need to worry about. While we have been focusing on what is happening structurally in our country as well as threats outside the U.S., there has been an equally substantial threat growing within the U.S.; the war on drugs. It seems every year the numbers are growing and don’t seem to be slowing down. The Whitehouse has finally released its 2018 budget and with its help, hopefully we can address the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our country.

How Bad is the Problem

Those who live in high drug use areas can attest to the problem that our country is facing. They have to encounter it whether they participate or not. This could mean anything from just seeing it around their community and on the streets to knowing someone personally who has an addiction problem which could also mean that they do as well. As far as the other group of people who do not encounter drugs every day or know someone that has a problem, they may not understand just how bad the issue is.

While the government and country as a whole are starting to take notice of the extremely devastating effects of opioids on our society, only so much has been done to help combat addiction. You would assume that with the era of research that we have been experiencing for a long time now, that drug use would be decreasing as knowledge was increasing. This is in fact the opposite of what is happening. More and more deaths related to opioid overdose are occurring each year. Six out of ten drug overdoses are a result of opioids.

Over the past 15 years we have seen a dramatic increase in deaths caused by overdose. More than 500,000 people have died from drug overdose between 2000 and 2015. The number of deaths involving opioids, prescription opioids, and heroin, has quadrupled since 1999, according to the CDC. This could be due to a quadrupling of prescription drug sales (oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone) and overdose. Twelve states have more opioid prescriptions than people with Alabama at the highest (142.9 per 100 people). Opioid overdose is responsible for killing 91 Americans every single day.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has stated that drug overdose is the single leading cause of accidental death in the US. Drug overdose is responsible for almost 40 percent more deaths than car crashes as of 2014. Between the years 1999 and 2014, opioid deaths grew by 396 percent. All of these facts and figures may sounds exaggerated but they are not. This is a serious problem that will only get worse unless we address the situation.

The Initial Plan

Donald Trump has never done drugs or drank any alcohol in his life. With the death of his brother as a result of alcoholism, he decided to keep such things away from his life. He made him a promise that he would not go near substances that could potentially hurt him.

Trump told Esquire in a 2004 interview. “He was ten years older than me, and he would always tell me not to drink or smoke. And to this day I’ve never had a cigarette. I’ve never had a glass of alcohol. I won’t even drink a cup of coffee. I just stay away from those things because he had such a tremendous problem. Fred did me a great favor. It’s one of the greatest favors anyone’s ever done for me,” he recalled.

While he himself doesn’t do any type of drugs, he tries to compassion and understanding to those that struggle with addiction. He has shown mercy to the people that have messed up around him. An example of this is when one of his Miss USA Pageant winners, Tara Connor, tested positive for cocaine. Most people would automatically write this person off and strip them of their title; but he showed forgiveness.

However, he does not condone recreation use of drugs such as marijuana. In his mind this legalization can cause a lot of problems for each state. Regardless of how he feels about this, he has said he will not stand in the way of any state that wants to legalize it on its own accord. One thing he can stand behind is medical marijuana legalization as he believes this actually serves a purpose.

The main issue of this country is not its problem with marijuana; it is the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Donald Trump knows this and is prepared to do whatever it takes to fix the issue and mend out country. Because so many people are dying each day he knows the impact that money could have. On the campaign trail he said that the investment of money may be a high cost but in the long run it will be worth it. And it is just that; an investment. By helping people get clean and saving lives from addiction through treatment and cutting off the inflow of opioids, the nation will improve in many ways.

The 2018 Fiscal Year Budget

So what is Donald Trump doing now that he is president to help curb the opioid epidemic? The Whitehouse has taken a giant step to combat this. With the release of the 2018 fiscal year budget we see the largest-ever funding levels for Drug Free Communities, The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs, and 280 million more than the National Drug Control Budget received in the 2017 fiscal year. With this increase we can now feel assured that the Whitehouse government is on the same page and wishes to fully support the Office of National Drug Control Policy and its mission.

The 2018 budget aims to request 27.8 billion dollars to be used for drug control efforts. It is being distributed in a way that will hopefully benefit all areas of drug control efforts such as prevention, treatment, and law enforcement to maximize results. An investment of 1.3 billion dollars is being directed toward Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act programs, 21st Century CURES Act programs, and other directives being created to combat the opioid epidemic blanketing the country. While some areas did receive small cuts, the majority of the budget takes aim to address the threat that drugs pose to our nation.

The budget is laid out as such:

  1. 12.1 billion dollars is being allocated for treatment and prevention efforts with a 15.6 billion dollar request for law enforcement, interdiction, and international initiatives. These are being used to get drugs off our streets, treat those who need to be treated and prevent the necessity of treatment through prevention methods like education and stopping the inflow of drugs.
  2. 468.6 million dollars are being devoted to border security. The aim of this funding is to improve border control technology and tactical security features. With these improvements the President hopes to stem the flow of people, drugs, and other illicit material that has been flowing across our borders and spreading out over the country.
  3. One of the areas with a decrease in funding is the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Ares program and the Drug-Free Communities program. 246.5 million is being requested for ONDCP’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program and 91.9 million is being requested for its Drug-Free Communities program. This is down a few million from the previous year.
  4. 10.8 billion dollars in treatment funding. This is almost a 2 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year budget. Because of the opioid problem, 500 million in State grants is being given in name of the 21st Century CURES Act to increase access to treatment, prevention, and recovery services. All of which play an important role in addressing the problem.

The Commission

The Comprehensive Addicting and Recovery Act, an act passed unanimously by congress under President Obama, was a good first step in attaining our drug free goal. Obama is one of the first presidents to reshape the War on Drugs. He wanted to take a different approach; a healing approach. Under his health care act, health insurance purchase from the Obamacare Marketplace was required to cover addiction recovery. With the high expense of addiction recovery, this was an important first step.

On March 29, President Trump established a commission (President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis). The main goal of this commission was to address the opioid epidemic. As a whole the commission is being used to evaluate the state of our approach; what is working and what is not working. Very plan has flaws and this commission means to identify those and come up with the best way to fix them. There are several parts to the plan.  These include: Evaluate the federal funding that is being used for addiction, prevention and treatment, locate which parts of the country need better access to treatment services, evaluating federal drug addiction programs, assess the educational approach, identify the most beneficial practices for treatment and prevention, and upon these discoveries, make suggestions to the federal government to improve criminal law.

It is meant to be a balanced group of people from different backgrounds, republican and democratic beliefs. The commission is set to publish their findings by October 1st, 2017. After such time, the commission will dissolve and give the government a chance to step in and re-evaluate allocation of funds and their approach to drug control.

Bipartisan Support

Republicans and Democrats can never really agree on anything. However, not surprisingly both seem dead set on addressing the drug overdose and addiction problem in our country. This is one issue most of American’s can agree on. We have a huge problem that is causing our health and wealth to deteriorate. While Trumps proposed budget seems to allocate a ton of funding to the combating of drugs, specifically opioids, there are many who do not agree with the cut of funding to the drug office. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was dead set against proposed cuts to the drug office. Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee stated:

“I’m pleased the administration agrees that the right signal to send to the communities battling opioid addiction, methamphetamine, and other dangerous drugs is that the federal government appreciates their struggle and how they work to get the most bang for the buck out of the federal dollars sent their way”

The people demand that this issue is addressed in an appropriate way. One way Donald Trump may be taking a step backwards is through the reversal of Obama’s policy to reduce mandatory minimum sentences. The sentencing applies to non-violent drug offenders with a minor amount of drugs possessed. We aren’t talking about those who commit violent offences but those who only harm themselves and do not possess a significant amount of drugs, mostly marijuana. With the policy that Obama put in place, prison overcrowding has decreased significantly. Instead of imprisoning someone they receive a ticket and hopefully addicts receive the help they need.

As a whole both sides need to work together to figure out the right approach. Help needs to be distributed to those who need it and we need to discover a way to be lenient and forgiving without overdoing it. The funding is a good place to start but may not completely fix the issue. With the Commission complement in October, hopefully we will know what steps further need to be taken.