What has Trump Done for the Opioid Epidemic?
The Trump administration is confronting the opioid epidemic in a few ways but is notably falling short in others. We explain.
UPDATE 2019: This American Health Care Act never passed, and thus some specifics here are of historical interest only.
In What Ways is Trump’s Administration Hurting or Helping the Opioid Crisis
Trump’s order on an opioid commission aside, and Jeff Sessions’ war on drug users included, the Trump administration has arguably done more to hasten the opioid crisis than fix it.
- Trump’s budget cuts NIH funding (the National Institute of Health; a government agency that helps address national health issues and does research).
- The AHCA (the American Health Care Act AKA TrumpCare) defunds the 21st Century Cures Act and drops millions from coverage.
- Meanwhile, the AHCA also allows states to allow plans that don’t cover drug treatment (it allows states to opt-out of ObamaCare’s essential health benefit).
When we in America send drug users to prison, the Trump’s administration is fighting the war on drugs Reagan style on the tax payer dime, by locking up poor addicts in jail.
The administration is defunding health care and trying to pass a bill that restricts access to healthcare. This obviously lessens the chance of treatment for addiction.
If the result is that addicts do not have access to effective treatment, then I doubt we can call this a win.
Trump’s Order on Opioids
More worrisome than most of the above, not all of it, is that the order sets up a commission that could come back and suggest fewer treatment options, more cuts, and worse policies.
The order tells a commission to:
- Identify existing federal dollars to combat drug addiction, including opioids;
- Assess availability and access to addiction treatment centers and overdose reversal and identify underserved areas;
- Measure the effectiveness of state prescription drug monitoring programs;
- Evaluate public messaging campaigns about prescription and illegal opioids, and identify best practices for drug prevention.
Sure, it would be great if they came back and said, “fund NIH and insure more people” but does that sound like where all this is going to you?
There is no reform for Big Pharma in sight although drug reform Trump promised it only to back out on it right after taking office. Less regulation being put forward, which is the main plank of the Republican platform after-all. These actions all work against the chance of us finding a 21st-century cure for the opioid epidemic.
For more reading, see:
- Presidential Executive Order Establishing the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
- Trump budget cuts NIH by $6 billion, consolidates AHRQ
- The 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan bill that addressed the war on drugs was defunded by the AHCA (TrumpCare).
- Sessions moves to lengthen drug sentences.
- Price’s Remarks On Opioid Treatment Were Unscientific And Damaging, Experts Say, an article that describes HHS under the new administration and their view on drug treatment.
- Trump promised to end the opioid epidemic. He could be making it worse.
- Wooed by Trump’s promises, opioid advocates now worry they were all empty.
The bottom line here is that the GOP is ramping up the war on drugs and will fill for-profit prisons with users who the tax payer will fund and the owners will profit from. Meanwhile, it is cutting access to care and treatment.
It may be possible that the commission results in better policies, but it seems short sighted to expect that.
Next time someone tells you “at least Trump is addressing the opioid crisis,” you can safely say, “No, not really; not yet at least.”
Some of Trump’s base will always support him no matter what, but for those of us “wooed by Trump’s promises” who aren’t diehards, this is the exact sort of disappointment that may influence us.