The Opioid Epidemic
Yesterday President Trump outlined his plan to tackle the opioid epidemic facing our country. Trump emphasized tough enforcement but lacked details on addressing the critical need for viable treatment for opioid addiction. The LA Times quoted Trump, “Strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society”. What the administrations fails to realize is a huge percentage of drug addicts, overdoses and deaths are cause by legal prescription drugs and not illegal drugs crossing the border.
It’s The Legal Prescription Drugs That Plague Us
While illegal drugs coming over the border are indeed a threat to Americans, a bigger threat is the legal drugs that are being over-prescribed each and every day, leading to thousands becoming addicted, and record levels of drug overdoses. Legal opioids, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. All the law enforcement in the world won’t slow down people becoming addicted to legal opioids, nor is law enforcement a viable method of treatment.
Opioid Commission Recommends Treatment, Not Law Enforcement
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, heads the commission Trump created to study the opioid epidemic, that commission recommended last week that Trump should declare a national emergency. The report focused on and recommended medical and treatment solutions, and not law enforcement.
While the Trump administration has promised face the opioid crisis, steps to undermine the Affordable Health Care Act and proposed cuts to federal aid to stages for Medicaid programs will only further erode treatment options. Trump administration has taken steps that are likely to undermine efforts to control the epidemic, according to many physicians and other healthcare leaders.
Trump has pushed for deep cuts in federal aid to states for their Medicaid programs even as Medicaid has emerged as one of the most important tools in combating the crisis.
Health Care Crisis
The LA Times article reported, “Medicaid, which now insures some 70 million low-income Americans, historically covered primarily poor children, pregnant mothers and the low-income elderly. But in recent years, funding made available through the Affordable Care Act has allowed states on the front lines of the epidemic, including Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, to open Medicaid to poor, working-age adults, a population traditionally not eligible for coverage but among the most likely to face substance abuse issues.”
They added, “In Ohio, for example, more than a third of the approximately 700,000 people who enrolled in Medicaid after the expansion began in 2014 reported some drug or alcohol dependence, according to a recent study by the state. The vast majority did not previously have health insurance.” With all of the attempts to degrade medical coverage those with drug abuse and addiction problems face an uncertain future.
What we must do
First an foremost we must separate the discussion of law enforcement and drug treatment and prevention. We need bold policies that support treatment and health care coverage for those entangled with drugs, legal or illegal. We must recognize you cannot legislate drug addiction, it must be treated. Any changes to our health care system should increase coverage for drug abuse and not reduce it in any way. This is not a conservative issue, nor a liberal issue, it is an American health care issue and we should not take away the very thing that can save lives.
We are doing all we can to help those with drug abuse or addiction problems to get help. Our hotline is answered by people who understand, who can provide guidance and also help you determine your treatment options. The call is free and someone is there 24/7. We’re here if you want to talk. 1-877-973-4221