In an emotional speech last Thursday, President Donald J. Trump confirmed the opioid epidemic in America is the “worst drug crisis in American history” and declared it a national public health emergency.
This is not a new issue. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 33,000 people died from opioid overdose that year and more than 2 million people were addicted to the painkillers.
This epidemic has maliciously spread throughout the country and became the largest killer for people under the age of 50, according to data complied by The New York Times.
However, simply announcing what we already know without offering realistic solutions does not help anyone. It only criminalizes the people affected and fails to help people in the way they need to be helped.
Addressing the issue is a great start, the initiatives President Trump offered are not enough.
Some of the programs President Trump discussed have already been implemented. He mentioned raising the maximum levels of addiction states can treat at their facilities, but only $57,000 is allotted for treatment in the national public heath emergency budget, which is separate from the much larger sum allocated for states of emergency.
President Trump also endorsed requiring special training for prescribers, yet a National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2014 reported that 75 percent of opioid misuse begins with medication that was not prescribed to them.
He also recommended requiring face–to–face doctor’s appointments when prescribing medication-assisted drug abuse treatment, but 95 percent of people who have an addiction do not think they need treatment, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013.
In an extensive research project conducted from 2011 – 2015, Castlight Health found that half of the people with opioid addictions also have a mental illness or personality disorder.
Two-thirds of people who are addicted to opioid have at least one traumatic childhood experience. Finally, addiction rates are more than 3 times higher for people who made less than $20,000 a year compare to people who made more than $50,000 a year.
America is not doing enough and our treatment of the epidemic addresses only a portion of a larger picture.
We need to pursue longterm treatment that encompasses not only substance abuse but mental health issues and trauma treatment and provides resources to help people truly thrive.
There are much larger economic and social injustices at play here that the president is not addressing. This is a start, but this cannot be the end.