Donald Trump is rolling out a policy he thinks will solve the opioid crisis in the U.S. Trump gave a speech yesterday in New Hampshire, where he lamented how many people were getting addicted to opiates, then overdosing. Trump’s solution to the problem was, of course, ending illegal immigration.
We are also going to put an end to Sanctuary Cities, which refuse to turn over illegal immigrant drug traffickers for deportation.
We will dismantle the illegal immigrant cartels and violent gangs, and we will send them swiftly out of our country.
We will aggressively prosecute traffickers of illegal drugs, and provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the resources and support they need to do their jobs.
Trump then, rightly, talks about the issue with the FDA’s reluctance to approve new drugs which could be used to reduce the need to prescribe opioids. He’s absolutely correct, and kudos to him for being willing to mention this particular foible of the FDA. But he takes a wrong turn by saying he wants the FDA to crack down on certain drugs.
At the same time, DEA should reduce the amount of Schedule II opioids (drugs like oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl) that can be made and sold in the U.S. We have 5 percent of the world’s population, but use 80 percent of the prescription opioids.
This is big government nonsense, and would make the problem worse. Restricting the number of drugs allowed into the U.S. would create a black market by encouraging more people to hold on to their extra pills and sell them to someone else. This is the same, tired policy the U.S. has tried numerous times, which didn’t solve anything. Look at Prohibition, which allowed gangsters like Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel to run amok. Or the stupidity of the current War on Drugs which let Pablo Escobar and El Chapo make major bank on drugs not being allowed into the U.S.
Trump also discusses giving doctors and paramedics more access to Narcan, which can be used to fight the effects of opioids. This ignores the fact Narcan is available to doctors, paramedics, and people (if they have a prescription). Unless you’re going to allow companies to sell Naloxone (the generic version of Narcan), giving more paramedics more access to the drug is going to cost more money. Which means taxpayers end up paying for it, instead of some private enterprise or charity. This isn’t small government talk, but big government talk, and something people really should consider before stamping down Trump/Pence next month (or whenever early voting starts in the state you live in).
The other issue with Narcan is how certain hospitals handle its usage. One doctor told me the problem with pain is patients keep coming back to opioids and the potential for addiction. The doctor also told me some hospitals have a committee which looks at all Narcan use at the hospital to see if opiates were over-prescribed at the hospital. Here’s how this doctor described everything to me:
“If patients complain about unacceptable pain, the nurse then calls the provider, the dose of pain medicine is increased and several hours later there is the potential for an overdose and the need for Narcan.”
The question Trump needs to answer on the “allowing more access to Narcan,” comment is whether or not he will force hospitals to keep a massive stock of the drug. If the federal government decides to do that, then we’re back to the entire “government getting involved in health care,” problem which dates back to the start of the nation.
There’s another issue in Trump’s talk about ending the opioid epidemic: his apparent doublespeak when it comes to treatment and incarceration. Here’s his comment on drug sentences.
I have to give credit to my running mate, Mike Pence, on this issue.
Mike increased the mandatory minimum sentences for the most serious drug offenders, while expanding access to treatment and prevention options for those struggling with addiction.
We must make similar efforts a priority for the nation.
Here’s his comment on drug treatment.
I would also expand incentives for states and local governments to use drug courts and mandated treatment. These can be a cost effective, appropriate, and humane response to addiction.
I would dramatically expand access to treatment slots and end Medicaid policies that obstruct inpatient treatment.
How is Trump going to distinguish between the two? I’ve written before how there are people who are given decades in prison because they decided to sell drugs to make some extra cash, and the mandatory minimums which hamstring judges. Trump needs to explain exactly what a “drug kingpin” is, and whether he means someone like El Chapo or someone like Leo Guthmiller, who introduced some people who bought and sold meth in 2013. It’s great Trump is paying lip service to drug courts and treatment, but all this is is lip service. If “Make America Safe Again,” means throwing people in jail without actually looking into the circumstances of why they did what they did, then forget it.
Trump’s ideas on this aren’t awful, but they aren’t going to do anything about the trillions of dollars in debt the U.S. faces. The real solution isn’t doing more mandates on companies and consumers, but opening up the market so doctors can have actual choices when it comes to pain medicines. The same goes for people who are arrested for dealing drugs. Judges should be allowed to decide how much they’re going to sentence someone to prison, instead of just a mandatory minimums. Trump isn’t proposing small government solutions, but big government ones, which won’t help anyone.