President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report on Nov. 1, outlining how it plans to fight the growing opioid abuse epidemic. The 131-page report was released a week after Trump declared addiction to prescription drugs and other opioids a nationwide public health emergency.
The commission, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, spent seven months gathering information about the extent of the epidemic by holding several meetings, according to “PBS NewsHour.” It gathered data, information and testimonies from both families of drug abusers and experts in the fields of public health, drug development and health insurance.
The last of these commissionmeetings took place at the White House, on the day the vote to approve the final report was held.
Featured speakers at these meetings included those who were recovering opioid addicts and families of children who died because of drug abuse.
Christie then echoed what Trump stated in his public health emergency declaration about how more people in the United States die every year from substance abuse than from gun violence or car accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that was about 64,000 people in 2016, or roughly 175 people per day.
As a result of the testimonies and data gathered, the commission came up with 56 proposals on how to fight the opioid epidemic. These proposals covered everything from researching substance abuse and preventing addiction to federally funding programs and initiatives that could save millions of lives. It is currently the funding that needs an immediate change, as the amount of money left in the Public Health Emergency Fund totals only $57,000.
However, Christie seemed hopeful that Congress will find an appropriate solution. In an interview with “Face the Nation,” the governor stated, “175 people are dying a day in America. If those people were dying at the hands of a terrorist organization, how much money would the United States Congress be willing to spend to make it stop?” He implied that the drug epidemic should be approached with the same urgent care.
Another notable proposal includes urging the Department of Justice to establish drug courts in every federal judicial district.
Thus, those citizens with substance use disorders could get more effective treatment, rather than just going to jail. This would be especially beneficial for non-violent offenders who only have one or two offenses relating to drugs. The commission emphasized the importance of getting rid of the social stigma that is attached to getting treatment for drug abuse. One way to do this, the report states, is “to design and implement a wide-reaching, national multi-platform media campaign addressing the hazards of substance use, the danger of opioids, and stigma.” Christie has already been working on a campaign like this for the state of New Jersey.
Contributors to the opioid epidemic include heroin, the synthetic opioid fentanyl and prescription medications such as oxycodone and morphine.
Opioids are commonly prescribed in small quantities to treat chronic pain or help with postsurgical recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, however, opioids can also give the user a euphoric high and can easily lead to misuse and addiction. Over 20 percent of patients misuse their prescription opioids, so the problem is far worse than illegally obtaining and abusing drugs.
The commission will need to work with both the Department of Justice and pharmaceutical companies to not only lower illegal substance trafficking in the United States, but also regulate how much opioid-based medication is allowed to be prescribed to patients.
The opioid epidemic is not a crisis that can be solved overnight. It will require cooperation among the federal government, health insurance providers, law enforcement officials and pharmaceutical companies. This cooperation is essential to prevent further increases in opioid and other drug misuse, as well as to provide victims of substance abuse disorders with affordable and effective treatment.