It is estimated that more than 130 people succumb to opioid overdose every single day in the U.S. The addiction and misuse of heroin, prescription painkillers, and fentanyl is a major public health crisis incurring a massive economic burden of approximately $78.5 billion per year. This includes costs incurred on addiction treatment, lost productivity, healthcare costs, and criminal justice involvement. Considering the huge burden this poses, it is essential that the federal government introduces concrete steps to control the situation.
Recently, the Trump administration claimed to have made progress against the ongoing opioid epidemic. The health policy researchers, however, are not in agreement. They have, instead, pointed out that planned cuts to Medicaid funding have worsened the ongoing crisis and that the proposed two-year funding is not enough.
Arguments in favor of Trump’s administration claims
According to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, marked progress against the opioid epidemic has been made ever since the President released a plan in 2018 to fight the epidemic. As per the plan, stringent legislations were laid down to punish drug dealers and to reduce the rate of opioid prescriptions to two-thirds by 2021. Additionally, Conway, who also heads the anti-drug measures on Capitol Hill, highlighted the reduced rate of prescription opioids, a decline in the rate of opioid overdose deaths, and the efforts of the administration to fight the illegal usage of potent drugs like fentanyl.
She further added that the prescriptions for painkillers have gone down by 25 percent since 2018 and around 1.4 billion Americans acknowledged viewing advertisements educating the youth about opioid-related health hazards. Moreover, the rate of opioid overdose deaths hiked by 10 percent during the President’s first year in office, as compared to 22 percent a year before Trump assumed office. Therefore, the death rate increased by only half of the previous year’s increase.
Health experts’ arguments against the claims
On the other hand, according to the health experts, there is not much evidence that supports the Trump administration’s claims of progress against the opioid epidemic. They pointed out that prescription of painkillers had started declining since 2012, much before Trump joined office. Also, the slower rate of growth of opioid overdose fatalities cannot be directly or solely attributed to the efforts made by the Trump administration.
In fact, the health experts pointed out that the suggested cuts to Medicaid by President Trump would be detrimental for patients seeking treatment for addiction. In addition, the two-year duration of anti-drug funding proposed by the government is not enough. According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, joint director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, the Trump administration and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could have done much better by facilitating a more careful approach against opioid prescription and properly regulating opioid manufacturers. The health policy researchers also highlighted the fact that the Trump administration’s 2019 plan failed to present a measurable and quantifiable budget proposal.
Few more factors refuting Trump administration’s progress claims
At a recent hearing, Elijah Cummings, chairman, House Oversight Committee denounced the Trump administration’s strategy and added that the 23-pager leaflet did not meet the fundamental requirements, as per the law. A former senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Keith Humphreys said that the administration’s report lacked a clear projection. He further added that while the overall trend of prescribing painkillers may have reduced, over-prescribing opioid painkillers by physicians still continues to be an issue. Humphreys also suggested that cuts to Medicaid in the present budget proposal would prove to be disastrous for the ongoing opioid epidemic, especially for individuals who are completely dependent on Medicaid for addiction treatment.
Given the fact that the Trump administration’s strategy is ambiguous from several angles, it is frustrating for people keen to see some marked improvements. Amie Goodin, a scientist from the pharmacy department of Florida University stated that the administration’s report advocates the expansion of treatment by the application of waivers to Medicaid, however, it clearly fails to direct how these waivers would be funded. Moreover, the present strategy is inadequate at multiple fronts because of lack of measurable objectives, absence of administrative authority, no funding plans, and oversight.
Some positive moves made by the Trump administration
Despite all arguments, ‘The Support for Patients and Communities Act’ signed by the President in October 2018, is a positive move towards curbing the opioid epidemic. This act proposes an expansion of addiction treatment accessibility and enhanced legal efforts against illicit substances. Nevertheless, the critics have stated that this act is not supported by federal funds directed towards the treatment of addiction.
The Trump administration has secured funds worth $6 billion over two years, of which he has directed $1.5 billion towards state opioid grants. However, health experts argued that the funding timeline of two years is not adequate. According to them, the funding timeline should have entailed at least 10 years of funding instead of two. Kolodny added that a two-year funding period is not likely to work, since it is impossible for states to build a new system, without a long-term funding commitment.
Recovering from opioid addiction
Opioid addiction is a hazard that has destroyed the life of millions of people all over the world. Ironically the number of deaths due to opioid overdose continues to rise in the U.S. Unfortunately, any kind of addiction is difficult to overcome on its own and one needs professional help to deal with it. The Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline offers various addiction treatment programs to help people deal with addiction and embrace long-lasting recovery.
If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to opioids and is looking for reliable prescription addiction helpline centers, call our helpline (866) 292-3211 and speak with our admissions representative. You can also chat online with a medical representative for further assistance.