Trump Backs Off Opioid Pledge, Won’t Declare a National Emergency

Under the direction of President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has officially pronounced opioid abuse a “public health emergency.”

While it’s good to see that the White House is finally doing something about the problem, it’s a major backslide from the president’s original pledge – first made over two months ago – to declare opioid overdoses a “national emergency.”

To outsiders, the difference between a national emergency and a public health emergency probably sounds like little more than semantics, but it actually makes a world of difference as to how the government will address the crisis.

For starters, no new financial resources will be allocated to opioid abuse while it is labeled a public health emergency. Instead, agencies will be compelled to use more money from their existing (and nearly depleted) budgets toward this issue. If it were designated a national emergency, however, the government would be able to throw new federal dollars at the situation.

Additionally, the public health emergency designation comes with a time frame: 90 days (with an option to renew.) It’s a joke to pretend that tackling a problem this massive – 64,000 citizens died from opioid overdoses last year, and only about 10 percent of addicts are receiving treatments – will magically be solved in three months time. That’s especially true without adequate resources behind the effort.

In a speech announcing the news, Trump said, “We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history… Addressing it will require all of our effort.”

That still doesn’t explain, then, why Trump stopped short of sticking by the national emergency he originally discussed. Even the commission the White House assembled to study the opioid crisis recommended for full “national emergency” status.

After all, fighting opioid addiction is a bipartisan issue the American public would get behind. In a national PBS/Marist poll, 84 percent of Americans said that opioid addiction was either a “major problem” for the U.S. or a “national emergency.” Over half of respondents said they personally knew someone addicted to the drugs, with a quarter of Americans saying they knew someone who died from a painkiller overdose.

Trump’s response to opioids may be disappointingly tepid, but that hasn’t stopped him from politicizing the crisis in an effort to achieve other goals. Trump cited his infamous wall as a top way the country can keep drugs out of the U.S. in the future. Of course, that spin intentionally overlooks the fact that most of the opioids Americans use illicitly are manufactured legally by pharmaceutical companies within the United States.

Perhaps that gets to the root of the problem. Last week, we learned that lawmakers in Washington D.C. are complicit in failing to crack down on painkiller abuse since big pharma scores huge profits off the millions of American addicts, and then shares some of that money with politicians via campaign donations.

Could it be that Trump and the powers that be don’t actually want to fix the country’s addiction problem since it would cost their corporate cronies billions? Adequately addressing the epidemic would require drug companies to change their current practices, and you can bet they’d be seriously opposed to that.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

78 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for the article

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Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Lisa M
Lisa M3 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M3 months ago

Noted.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R3 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Angel W
Past Member 4 months ago

thanks
I wish trump the frump would overdose.........

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Peggy B
Peggy B4 months ago

Hmmm, did big pharma threaten to stop their contributions to his 2020 campaign?

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E8 months ago

Aaron F
I guess YOU will never need extreme pain control that Physicians give UNDER their care? Very often sent home with script to finish the recovery at home? Most are Okay with stopping but many are not. Your lack of understanding is quite apparent

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S8 months ago

Thanks

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Aaron F
Past Member 8 months ago

YOU put it in your body...YOU pay the price...

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