Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much, however, they do seem to agree on one thing: drug addiction is a huge problem for the United States. The drug epidemic sweeping nation is taking countless lives every day. This issue has only worsened over time and therefore needs all the help it can get. We saw a record setting amount of fatal drug overdoses in the US in the year 2014 and 2015. Of the more than 55,000 Americans who died from drugs in the year 2015, over 33,000 of them were from opioids. What is our President doing to help this cause? As this has become a very hot button issue, it is important to understand what is going on in the mind of our leader.
Trump’s Plan of Attack
Since the 90’s Donald Trump’s stance on drugs has changed tremendously. Originally he was in favor of the decriminalization of illicit drugs. According to him, the drug law enforcement of America was a “joke”. He believed that the only way to end the war on drugs was through legalization of drugs. In return he claimed the tax revenue could be used to fund drug education programs. He was quoted as saying, “You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
So how did Trump feel during the election and what was his stance on drugs. Donald Trump himself says that he has not done any drugs ever. He has never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol, never had a cigarette, and never had a cup of coffee. According to him drugs and alcohol has never been a part of his life. This is largely because his brother died from extreme alcoholism and made him promise he would never touch drugs or alcohol.
He also tries to be sympathetic to those struggling with addiction. One of his Miss USA Pageant winners, Tara Connor, was given a second chance after testing positive for cocaine. Instead of ruining her life, he gave her an opportunity of getting clean instead of stripping her of her title. This leniency could be a result of his brothers lingering influence.
With this in mind, he feels strongly that recreational drug use should not be allowed unless decided upon by each individual state. He is 100 percent behind medical marijuana but is opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. In his opinion it has caused Colorado a lot of problems. But if a state votes to legalize marijuana he will not stand in their way.
Marijuana isn’t the big problem in our country, though; opioids are. On the campaign trail Donald Trump shed light on this issue. His main goal was to stop the inflow of opioids into the United States. The cost of this may be considerable but in the long run it would be worth it. The billions of dollars lost in productivity take a high toll on the country. The money necessary to invest to stop this problem would be a high cost, however, it would more than pay for itself with the help it would offer the nation. Donald Trump said that the recovery of lives and productivity would help make the United States a healthier, wealthier nation.
What He Has Done So Far
One of the only issues that Democrats and Republicans can unite on is the combat of drugs and addiction that plague this country. With the rise in death toll every day from drug overdose, it is no surprise that this problem is on the minds of most Americans. This crisis has shown a new record for drug overdose deaths over the last three years. Of these drugs, Opioids such as heroin and prescription pills tend to result in the most deaths.
Under the Obama administration we saw a giant leap toward this goal. The Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, a considerable opioid combatant, was unanimously passed into law by Congress. Obama also wanted addiction recovery to be a main priority. Any health insurance purchased from the ‘Obamacare marketplace, was required to cover addiction recovery. This was a huge step in the right direction because addiction recovery can be extremely expensive.
On March 29, President Trump established a commission (President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis) that had a main goal to target and fix the enormous opioid problem. Everyone working on the commissions is working toward the best possible plan to combat addiction. The main idea of the plan is to identify the flaws, what is not working, and find better ways to approach the situation. The mission consists of six basic parts.
- Evaluate the federal funding that is going towards addiction prevention and treatment
- Pinpoint which parts of the country do not have ideal access to treatment services or overdose reversal medication
- Identify the best practices for preventing addiction. This could mean anything from educating healthcare providers so they monitor prescription drug assignment to evaluating nationwide opioid prescription as a whole.
- To evaluate the educational approach to informing the country of the opioid crisis
- To evaluate the federal programs used to combat addiction and overdose
- To re-evaluate and make suggestions for changes to the federal criminal law
The members appointed by Trump will do so without pay and “shall be selected so that membership is fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented…,” as written within the executive order. By October 1, 2017, the commission will submit a composite report of each part; after which they shall dissolve. If more time is needed an evaluation will be done to allow for such.
A Part of the Team
Governor Chris Christie, a Republican Governor from the State of New Jersey, is willing to take a stand against drugs. Christie is Donald Trump’s appointed Chairman of the Commission. He realizes the hole that we have spiraled into. In his State of the State address on January 10th, Chris Christie said:
“Our friends are dying. Our neighbors are dying. Our co-workers are dying. Our children are dying. Every day. In numbers we can no longer afford to ignore.” He spent a lot of his time devoted to fighting the battle of addiction within New Jersey because “because our state faces a crisis which is more urgent to New Jersey’s families than any other issue we could confront.”
Why does he feel this strong tie to ending drug addiction? He has lost two people due to drugs and almost lost a third. The first was a friend from law school who died from an addiction to opioids. Second was his mother whose addiction to cigarettes gave her lung cancer from which she died. And lastly was AJ Solomon, the son of a Supreme Court justice who was addicted to heroin. He almost lost this friend who eventually got clean and started his own rehab facility.
If you are worried that the only help Donald Trump is receiving is Republican one-sided, fear not. Many Democrats have rushed in to aid the commission. Among these Democrats are North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and senior advisor to the president, Jared Kushner. Many others from both sides are trying their best to step up. It is a bipartisan effort as a whole against a cause they hits home for many of us.
How Necessary is Drug Intervention?
Heroin use is an epidemic in the United States. This issue hasn’t gotten any better over the last 15 years; in fact, it has gotten profoundly worse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that the number of heroin overdoses rose from just five people per day in the year 2001, to 29 people a day in the year 2014. This increase is close to six times the original amount and getting bigger every day.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the single leading cause of accidental death in the US. In 2014, over 47,000 occurred from drug overdose alone. Of these 47,000, 10,000 were heroin-related and almost half were opioid based. A report by US News revealed that the rate of heroin dependence doubled from 2002 to 2013.
Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirm that heroin abuse rates are rising most rapidly “…in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use.” This includes non-Hispanic whites aged 18-25 who the CDC say are increasingly becoming addicted in metropolitan areas. This means young white adults in cities where population growth is continually happening are most at-risk for becoming addicted to heroin.
Where is the pushback coming from?
While it seems Donald Trump shares an interest to combat drug addiction, it seems he is looking to cut federal spending wherever he can. The first part of his term gave us false promises and false hope. In the beginning of May, the Presidents administration revealed the 2018 budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much to our surprise he decided to cut funding by about 95 percent according to an Office of Management and Budget document acquired by the New York Times. Donald Trump is proposing that the drug policy office budget be reduced from $388 million dollars to just $24 million.
For a man who is so dead set against drug use, this has thrown many supporters off his bandwagon. Democrats and Republicans are baffled as to why he would want to cut funding for a program that has helped youths in over 600 communities across the nation. This includes 4.4 million middle schoolers and 6.3 high schoolers since its creation in 1982, according to Republican Senator Rob Portman, Democratic Senator Dander Levin. Lawmakers are questioning why he would want to defund a program that is so evidently helpful.
Not only has his leaked plan upset those who had faith he would combat the opioid crisis in the United States, but he also wants to reverse an Obama policy that reduced mandatory minimum sentences. These sentences are not for violent offenders, but for non-violent drug offenders with a minor amount of drugs possessed. The overcrowding in prisons has decreased immensely since this policy was put in place. It stopped the arrest of minor marijuana possession which was instead solved with the issue of a ticket. This is the opposite of what most lawmakers want; they want to help addicts rather than incriminate them if possible.
What can we do?
The idea with this approach is to take a step back and figure out what can be done. Christie believes that current funding is not effective and can be distributed differently. Whether this is true or not, this budget is going to receive a lot of negative feedback from both sides. Hopefully Democrats and Republicans can overcome their differences to unite under a righteous cause. One this is for sure, the opioid crisis is a serious epidemic and lawmakers need to figure something out to fix this problem.
With the cut in funding it is more important than ever to get involved and stay aware. With the Commission’s report coming out October first, we should get a good idea of how things can be adjusted.