On Monday, from the Rose Garden, President Trump announced that he is doubling down on his commitment to battle the opioid epidemic.
I was asked to travel to Trump Tower recently, as a member of the president’s Media Advisory Board, to do a piece on the mental health effects of opioids and their social and economic impact. The President posted it on his Facebook page Monday night, hours after addressing the issue in the Rose Garden.
Nationally, employers are losing an estimated $10 billion per year from absenteeism and lost productivity due to opioid abuse. Castlight Health estimates that one-third of employees taking painkillers prescribed by employer plans become addicted. These numbers are staggering, and growing.
Thirty-five thousand Americans died of opioid addiction last year, and millions are addicted today and have no idea how to get better.
The problem is prolific in hospitals across the country, and is impacting our children as well.
Drug dealers are lacing street drugs with opioids. They know that if they can get young people addicted, it will mean cash flow into their drug cartels for years to come. So they lace drugs with fentanyl, a popular synthetic-opioid cousin. Fentanyl is 30-100 times stronger than heroin (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and it is pouring across our borders.
Carfentanil is another one. It is 1000 times more toxic than fentanyl, and is so dangerous it is considered a weapon of mass destruction. Authorities can’t even handle it without hazmat precautions when a vehicle is suspected of having carfentanil aboard. Yet it is showing up in recreational drugs to addict our children. China refuses to stop producing it.
This addiction is terroristic in how it finds some of its victims. It preys on those who innocently go into the hospital and don't realize they will come away with an addiction that could ruin their lives.
No one is safe. Children can be addicted when a brownie is laced with the drug. Adults can be addicted when prescribed pain medicine by a doctor. The elderly are even more susceptible, as they may battle more pain and surgeries than other populations. They also tend to be more trusting of medical professionals, and less suspicious of pharmaceuticals than younger populations.
President Trump has waded into a deeply complicated issue with opioid addiction, one that is continually in the headlines as new facets of the crisis surface daily.
Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the Rose Garden event, the president announced that his drug czar nominee, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Penn., would be withdrawing his name from consideration following a “60 Minutes” report Sunday in which the congressman was cited as undermining legislation to bolster DEA enforcement to crack down on opioid manufacturers. Also Tuesday, Reuters reported that two Chinese men were charged with conspiring to distribute large amounts of fentanyl into the U.S.; this in addition to five Canadians and three Americans also indicted in this drug conspiracy with the Chinese importers.
Warning patients of the addictive qualities and how to wean themselves from these drugs, cracking down on the gangs bringing the substances across U.S. borders, and arresting internet distributors are all important first steps in the president’s commitment to curtail this epidemic threatening Americans of all ages.