Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Anything About America’s Opioid Epidemic
The president finally made a statement about the country’s drug addiction issue, but gave zero indication that he understands how most Americans got addicted to opioids in the first place.
Published on August 9, 2017

President Donald Trump took a break from his golfing vacation yesterday to attend a series of briefings and speak to the American public about the country’s opioid crisis, as well as threaten “fire and fury” against Kim Jong Un and North Korea. Understandably, the prospect of a nuclear holocaust garnered most of the day’s headlines, but the president’s speech about drugs might actually cause more harm than his red button boasting.

Preceding yesterday’s briefing, the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, appointed by Trump and led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, made a host of suggestions to the president, including a request that the commander in chief declare the opioid crisis a national emergency - nomenclature that would have freed up more federal funding to fight the deadly crisis. Instead, Trump refrained from declaring an emergency, and instead spoke about drug addiction as if opiate users were puppies learning to potty train. 

“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem,” Trump said. “If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off. So we can keep them from going on, and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, ‘No good; really bad for you’ in every way. But if they don’t start, it will never be a problem."

Even after being briefed by a group specifically responsible for dealing with the issue, Trump still does not understand that America’s opioid problem was caused and continues to be fueled by pharmaceutical companies and the overprescription of deadly painkillers. 

All indications suggest that the president of the United States wholeheartedly believes that children are buying heroin on the schoolyard and shooting up in gym class. So instead of putting sanctions on the pharmaceutical industry or expanding medicaid and health services to help those hooked by their physician, Trump is more concerned with empowering law enforcement to arrest more drug addicts and dealers. 

"We're also working with law enforcement officers to protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities -- strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society.” Trump continued.

For addiction experts around the country, Trump’s ignorance and inaction was expected, but nonetheless disappointing. 

“It’s hard to get an arsonist interested in the possibilities afforded by a fire hose,” Keith Humphreys, an addiction specialist at Stanford University, said after Trump’s speech. “Everything a public health emergency declaration would allow Trump to do he could have done already in the past 8 months simply by working with Congress on the required legislation. But he didn’t do that, instead he worked to cut the very public health resources an emergency declaration would allow him to expand.”

On the other side of the aisle, Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, who left the door open for the declaration of a national emergency, was quick to come to Donald’s side after the president made a public mockery of the addiction crisis.

“We believe that, as this point, that the resources that we need, or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president,” Price said.

As far as cannabis is concerned, despite an outcry from citizens to the opioid commission calling for medical marijuana to be used in the fight against opioids, the commission’s report made no mention of the natural painkiller. When asked about the omission, Rhode Island Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy, who helped craft the report, spewed fear-mongering propaganda about the supposed dangers of cannabis.



Considering the suggested Medicaid cuts in Trump’s failed health care bill, it’s obvious that the president never had any plan to tackle addiction as a health issue. Instead he’s compiled a policy cobbled together from the playbooks of Nancy Reagan and Jeff Sessions, quite literally the last two people who should inform American drug policy. 

Trump’s opioid commission reported that overdoses are killing more than 140 people every single day in America. Just say no, kids, we’re sure Purdue Pharmaceuticals, their lobbyists and the doctors on their payroll will understand.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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