Just Say No Archives -
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The Trump Opioid Plan: the Good, the Bad and the Border

The Trump Opioid Plan: The Good, the Bad and the Border

The fight against prescription opioid abuse, heroin, and fentanyl in America continues to intensify. Our political landscape may soon see even more drastic shifts because of it. Controversy and conjecture have surrounded many ideas brought to the table on both sides. Even the President himself has been behind some pretty divisive propositions. Then Monday, President Trump unveiled his plan for combatting the ongoing opioid crisis in America while in New Hampshire.

During his speech, the President talked up a few key elements of his plan; some we have heard of before, and others have only recently become a serious topic of conversation. As the administration puts the final touches on their proposals, we thought should take a look at some of the highlights and see which of his plans could actually work, and why experts and advocates believe others probably won’t.

Arguably, there are some pretty good ideas here… and some pretty bad ones, depending on who you ask.

An Opioid Vaccine

Let’s kick this off on a high note.

The Trump opioid plan includes supporting the search for a vaccine. This honestly seems like a good ambition to get behind, but will it work? Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the National Institute on Drug Abuse developed an experimental heroin vaccine back in December. So far the compound has been tested with rats and mice. Their latest breakthrough found that antibodies in the vaccine bound to the heroin before crossing the blood-brain barrier. This reaction effectively prevents the euphoric effects of the drug.

While this is an exciting development, it is still a vast leap to go from treating mice to treating humans. We still have a long road ahead before this possible vaccine could be approved. However, more funding and resources from the federal government could make a big difference.

Even so, it is important to note that this vaccine will not be a cure-all answer that fixes everything. After all, we have seen opioid blocking methods before. Drugs like Vivitrol and other implants were also developed to hamper the effects of opioids, and they still haven’t stopped the crisis from growing. Experts are already saying this vaccine will only work in the short term and require repeated doses. It is expected to be an incredibly expensive treatment, and it may only be another variation of the Vivitrol shot. Still, some believe this vaccine, used alongside other treatment methods, could be a crucial tool in fighting opioids.

Big Pharma and Prescription Drugs

The Trump opioid plan also takes a look at prescription opioids. The President acknowledged the contribution of pharmaceutical companies and prescription drugs to the opioid crisis. In his statement, he indicated that this administration support research for opioid alternatives.

“That includes federal funding for the development of non-addictive painkillers.”

In talking about prescription drugs, President Trump said the administration also planned on addressing the issue of overprescribing addictive medications. He even touted the Justice Department’s new task force that may soon be fighting Big Pharma companies in court.

“Our Department of Justice is looking very seriously into bringing major litigation against some of these drug companies. We will bring it at a federal level.”

He acknowledges the recent work at the state level to hold Big Pharma accountable. President Trump said his administration will be working to reduce opioid prescriptions by 1/3 over the next three years. Hopefully, as time goes on there will not only be more accountability to those manufacturing these potent medications, but also more options for the thousands of people suffering from chronic pain who do need pain management.

Commercial Campaign

This show we have seen (fail) before. The crisis probably isn’t going to get fixed with re-runs and reboots.

For a long time, Trump has been talking about creating a media campaign to try and combat the opioid crisis. In his remarks on Monday, the president said,

 “We are thinking about doing a really large-scale rollout of commercials that show how bad it is for the kids… Scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials.”

Trump said he would spend a lot of money and direct people to make the commercials depict “pretty unsavory situations” claiming that this strategy has worked before with cigarette smoking.

Sadly, the reality is that we have tried this before. Using anti-drug messaging that specifically targets kids and young adults is exactly what was done with the “Just Say No” ad campaign of the 1980s and early 1990s, and the DARE program of the same period. Neither program was proven to be particularly effective in reducing drug use. Some have even argued it did the opposite and actually intrigued young people into drug use.

This is just one part of the Trump opioid plan that reminds people of the ideas pushed in the failed War on Drugs that already destroyed countless lives and only ended up making the problem worse.

So how will this new campaign be different?

The Border

The President also mentioned the importance of combatting the flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl and heroin into the country. He became particularly energized of course when talking about his proposed border wall with Mexico, saying,

“90% of the heroin in America comes from the southern border, where eventually the Democrats will agree with us and we will build a wall to keep the damn drugs out.”

However, many are not so convinced that the wall will be especially effective in stopping drug traffickers. Support for the wall experiences ups and downs as negotiations over immigration continue. Then the President took the opportunity to scrutinize sanctuary cities, calling out California and claiming these places were harboring the most terrible kinds of criminals, including drug dealers.

If part of the Trump opioid plan is to apply even more pressure to sanctuary cities, we may see more back-and-forth when it comes to compromises on immigration policy reform. Recently the Republicans were using DACA as a bargaining chip with Democrats to get the infamous border wall built, but now Trump says Democrats are holding onto it so they can use the issue during the election cycle.

Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

Now, THIS proposal is the one part of the Trump opioid plan that is causing the most controversy, and understandably so.

UPDATE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent out a memo Wednesday officially asking federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in drug trafficking cases “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs”. So the administration is now implementing President Donald Trump’s plan to ramp up “tough on crime” punishments in response to the opioid crisis.

In his speech, the President brought having the death penalty for drug traffickers to the forefront. This is an extreme even some of his supporters believed was more tongue-in-cheek than actual proposed policy. The details on this proposal were still pretty scarce at the time. Some support Trump pushing for the death penalty, saying this punishment would only apply to high volume, kingpin-level dealers. But what we should consider is this:

  1. The federal death penalty is available for a few drug offenses. This includes violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions in federal law.
  2. Reports indicate that Trump wants Congress to pass legislation that will reduce the amount of drugs needed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers.

So should we assume that the President intends to expand what qualifies as “drug kingpin” activity to make the death penalty easier to enforce? If so, what does that mean exactly? And what does it mean for further enforcing other mandatory minimums?

The Justice Department has said it would seek the death penalty “when appropriate under current law.” While drug-related murder is already a capital offense, no one has ever been executed by those rules. However, President Trump says that he and the Justice Department are working very hard to change the laws. To do so would require an act of Congress, and many believe Congress is highly unlikely to expand the federal death penalty. So will any of this be changing soon?

In his comments, President Trump stated,

“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”

President Trump’s call for the death penalty is being strongly met with condemnation. The proposal’s critics range from treatment advocates to law enforcement officials and civil liberty organizations.

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement,

 “If this administration wants to save lives, it needs to drop its obsession with killing and locking people up, and instead focus resources on what works: harm reduction strategies and access to evidence-based treatment and prevention.”

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, said,

“Drug trafficking is not an offense for which someone can receive the death penalty,”

McCurdy is referring to a Supreme Court precedent that puts constraints on using the death penalty for a convicted person who did not commit murder.

Furthermore, there are plenty of arguments that this kind of policy is not practical. Some say it would either be so broad it became unconstitutional, or so specific that it would be obsolete. This aspect of the plan has sparked nationwide debate. Americans everywhere are arguing whether or not a drug dealer should be responsible for the deaths of customers.

Sadly, this is so frustrating because past data does not hold with the idea that getting ‘tough’ on drugs is more effective than offering treatment opportunities. One of the best studies backing this is a 2014 study from Peter Reuter at the University of Maryland and Harold Pollack at the University of Chicago. Researchers determined that while simply prohibiting drugs to some extent does raise their prices, there’s no good evidence that tougher punishments or harsher supply elimination efforts do a better job of driving down access to drugs and substance misuse than lighter penalties.

In fact, many addiction advocates argue that harsher punishments can actually be counter-productive because they end up punishing people who need treatment, not incarceration. So the need for a more comprehensive approach to opioid addiction treatment is paramount. Hopefully, this administration will see the need to focus on support for treatment, instead of a primarily punitive focus.

Trump Opioid Plan on Treatment

This is a critical and commendable element of the Trump opioid plan, and I applaud some of its intentions. However, I wish we could talk a lot more about this and a lot less about captial punishment.

Still, I give them credit for saying they want to increase access to addiction treatment and adopting harm reduction. There isn’t much detail to go on though, as far as how this will happen. One aspect is to increase the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine.

As another highlight, Trump also asks Congress to repeal a rule blocking Medicaid payments to larger treatment facilities, which could provide a boost in the billions to inpatient clinics. Hopefully, this is one factor of the Trump opioid plan that will pan out, because one of the biggest issues the US faces with the opioid crisis is a limited access to adequate treatment options. If the White House allows Medicaid to reimburse larger treatment facilities, more people will be able to get effective care. Still, it is unclear how many resources the administration is willing to commit to treatment resources.

Hopefully, the Trump opioid plan will evolve and we will see a resurgence of resources going toward helping get people suffer the help they need. It is understandable to want to curb the rise of addiction through anti-trafficking measures and raising awareness, but we already have thousands and thousands of people struggling every day all over America who need help. Preventive steps are crucial, and the President is trying to push for them. But it is vital that we also give everyone already struggling more of a fighting chance. The possibility of more people having greater access could help create a huge shift.

Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing innovative and effective holistic treatment options for those who are battling with addiction. Our facilities believe in comprehensive and compassionate care, and our mission every day is to transform as many lives as possible. Together, we can make a difference. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Can Kellyanne Conway Really Compete with the Opioid Crisis?

Can Kellyanne Conway Really Compete with the Opioid Crisis?

This past Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will be the Trump administration’s go-to for opioid crisis efforts. This announcement has been met with both praise and criticism. Some say this appointment actually gives validity to the White House’s commitment to solving the ongoing opioid epidemic, while others see it as the exact opposite.

For a little background, Kellyanne Conway worked as a pollster before becoming Trump’s campaign manager during his run for the 2016 presidential nomination. Currently, Conway serves as a White House spokeswoman and Trump surrogate. She has been seen on countless panels discussing the biggest topics and politics. She absolutely has her work cut out for her, so can Kellyanne Conway compete?

The Kellyanne Cons and Pros

So can this infamous Trump advocate, the woman who practically accidentally coined the phrase “alternative facts” compete with the opioid crisis in America? Kallyanne Conway has become notorious for defending some of President Trump’s most flagrant and controversial “alternative facts” in the media. But in her defense, she also has said some things that seem to highlight important prospects for this problem.

So here are some things to consider when we talk about Kellyanne Conway being put in charge of the opioid epidemic.

Lack of Experience

One of the big problems with this appointment people are pointing out is the lack of experience. Critics say this appointment speaks to how little passion the current administration is actually putting into fighting the opioid crisis since Kellyanne Conway has no experience in public health or with drug policy.

But in a time where Americans seem to be putting more trust in people that don’t typically meet the description of “qualified” in hopes that an outsider might bring better results, it makes sense that a lot of people might still hope Kellyanne can do some good.

Yet, there are still those who aren’t so sure. Tom Synan, a police chief and member of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition in Ohio tweeted in response to the announcement:

“Ummm… did we run out of Dr’s, cops, addiction specialists or people who are actually dealing with this on the street to lead this?”

As a first responder, Synan is one of many people who are frustrated with the current actions being taken.

“I don’t want to get involved in politics, but it seems like it is a political position … I think I would have gone out to the country and tapped into people who are national experts who are on the street who are literally dealing with this issue every day,”

It seems many on the front lines are not impressed with the Trump administration’s move to put Kellyanne Conway in charge of efforts to combat one of the worst drug problems in the nation’s history.

Publicity and Perception

During a press briefing about the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the crisis where the announcement was made, Sessions said President Donald Trump chose Kellyanne Conway to “change the perception” about opioids and reduce addictions and deaths.

According to Sessions, President Trump has made the epidemic “a top priority for his administration, including every senior official and Cabinet member.”

An opioid policy expert Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University actually defended the move when speaking to BuzzFeed News, stating:

“It is a positive sign. She is a high-profile figure in the administration, showing the administration takes this seriously,”

Some believe this can offer a sign of hope for more concrete action since many recovery advocates say despite the declaration of a public health emergency from President Trump there has been very little action taken to change the state of the epidemic.

Bertha Madras, a member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and Harvard Medical School professor, said:

“The most important thing that Kellyanne Conway will provide is access … but also commitment… She was at all the meetings, she listened and took copious notes.”

Let’s hope those are some good notes because thus far the opioid problem in America has shown no signs of slowing down. Jeff Sessions justified the appointment by saying Kellyanne Conway “understanding messaging” and can help turn around public perception. But is this about publicity, or is it about the preservation of life?

Surely breaking the stigma and changing the way addiction is viewed does matter, but should someone who specializes in making things look good to be in charge of how this country deals with one of the most prominent crises we face?

Treatment and Resources

Kellyanne does seem to support treatment, but to what extent it is still unclear. In one interview with ABC Kellyanne Conway did say,

“Pouring money into the problem is not the only answer. We have to get serious about in-facility treatment and recovery.”

So she at least appears to understand how crucial effective inpatient treatment is for recovery.

But when reporters mentioned the fact that there needs to be funding for these programs, she put more emphasis on “a 4 letter word called will” that seems to side-step the question- where will these resources come from?

As it now stands, White House has:

  • Left the leadership role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy vacant
  • Failed to release any written opioid-control strategy
  • Not requested funds to replenish the national public health emergency fund that currently sits at just $66,000

In fact, President Trump’s 2018 budget request would increase addiction treatment funding by less than 2%. And don’t be fooled, that increase includes the $500 million already appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act with the Obama administration.

Even Chris Christie, the Republican New Jersey Governor who led the White House Opioid Commission, said:

“In New Jersey, we are spending $500 million,” he said. “I am not, quite frankly, impressed with $1 billion from the federal government for the nation.”

Strict Prevention and Punishment

When you look at what she has said on record in regards to opioids and addiction, it doesn’t really inspire a great deal of confidence. Kellyanne Conway has consistently hinted to an outdated ideology of what addiction is and how to address it.

In the past, Kellyanne has said,

“The best way to stop people dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place… That’s a big core message for our youth.”

That’s right; just say no.

Critics say this aligns with the mindset of Jeff Sessions and others in the White House who seem to think that ‘Just Say No’ tactics actually work, or that purely prevention-based programs like D.A.R.E. can solve the whole problem. While prevention is important, it has proven to be ineffective as a focal point when addressing addiction.

Circling back to publicity, what Ms. Conway does seem to heavily endorse is a White House investigation for a “national ad campaign” on abuse prevention. President Trump himself had voiced his own support for a national advertising initiative to try and deter drug use.

But we all remember those commercials- this is your brain on drugs- and they didn’t really help that much.

Again, it seems Attorney General Sessions and the current administration is more focused on punishment than treatment and strict law enforcement. Sessions said the Justice Department was giving more than $12 million in grants to state and local law enforcement to help them prosecute crimes connected to:

Sessions is also ordering all U.S. Attorney offices to designate opioid coordinators. Kaitlyn Boecker, Policy Manager with the Drug Policy Alliance, has been vocal in her disapproval of the current steps being taken.

“Despite declaring the opioid overdose crisis a public health emergency just last month, the Trump Administration continues to emphasize failed prohibitionist policies while ignoring proven public health measures that we know reduce overdose death, like community naloxone distribution.”

 “As we feared, the Administration is using the overdose crisis as an excuse to ratchet up the war on drugs rather than an opportunity to save lives.” 

At this point, we can say that the news is not without skeptics. While many are still trying to remain hopeful that maybe because Kellyanne is so vocal and such a well-known surrogate for the president that perhaps she will be able to garner more attention to the issue.

While the fight for more resources continues, we should always encourage people to seek help. There are many safe and effective treatment resources already that have been helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction for decades, like Palm Healthcare Company. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. 

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

President Trump Plan for Opioid Crisis Sounds Like ‘Just Say No’

President Trump Plan for Opioid Crisis Sounds Like ‘Just Say No’

President Donald Trump promised a “major briefing” via his favorite publication… twitter… this Tuesday morning. Many people were expecting something big related to the request from the national opioid commission to declare a state of emergency for the opioid epidemic. But alas, this was not the case. President Trump made no announcement on new policies in the fight against opioids. Instead, he made a comment that sounds a lot like Nancy Reagan telling everyone to ‘just say no’ in the 80s, and we all know how well that worked.

This is concerning to so many who put stock in President Trump when he said he would make fighting the opioid epidemic a priority. Yet, so many feel like he is absent on the subject when it comes to establishing any initiatives or taking proactive action.

President Trump vowed on Tuesday that the United States will “win” the battle against the heroin and opioid outbreak. But instead of presenting a plan to support and reinforce treatment initiatives and other programs, the focus on his comments were claims to-

 “- protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities.”

The closer we look at the administration’s latest actions, the more it seems like this administration prefers the failed ‘just say no’ and War on Drugs mentality than actually offering a progressive answer.

President Trump Says Drugs are Bad

Probably the one part people are most annoyed with is when President Trump stated:

“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.”

I feel like most of us did a good old fashion face-palm on this one… because DUH! We know drugs are bad (thanks Mr. Mackey) and we know talking to kids about drugs matters. That is why programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) have been around for decades. However, we also know from D.A.R.E.’s track record that this kind of program hasn’t been particularly successful at stopping drug use either!

While giving this latest briefing from his 17 day “working vacation” from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, President Trump also stated:

“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,”

“I’m confident that by working with our health care and law enforcement experts, we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.”

Now while it is true that addiction can’t technically develop if someone never uses substances, this still sounds a lot like ‘just say no’, which we all know does not work as a drug policy. Prevention is key and maybe with more detail about Trump’s plan on how to prevent drug use we could see where this comment is going. But as it stands, these comments just sound like more of the same.

After all, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Session does seem to agree with the old War on Drugs tactics. Why, we may never know.

It is incredibly frustrating to advocates and experts involved in the addiction recovery community, as well as for citizens all across the nation who are hoping for some real change. Why- because we know that ‘just say know’ failed. We tried to just tell kids that drugs are bad for them and not to do them, but the epidemic still happened! And needless to say, just saying no is not going to help us with the overwhelming rates of addiction, overdose and death that we are already dealing with.

Far beyond that, understanding and overcoming addiction is about a lot more than just knowing its bad for you.

Is President Trump Ignoring Suggestions?

The president himself appointed the opioid commission, chaired by Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Only a week ago the panel urged President Trump to “declare a national emergency”, citing the tragically high overdose and death rates across the country. In the report issued by the opioid commission there were numerous recommendations that many were hopeful would come to fruition as soon as possible. Among these recommendations there is:

  • Expanding treatment facilities across the country
  • Educating and equipping doctors about the proper way to prescribe pain medication
  • Equipping all police officers with the anti-overdose remedy Naloxone

All of these suggestions seem like they would make a pretty big impact on the current predicament. Empowering treatment providers in more of the U.S. can help get more addicts off the streets and introduce them to the option of getting well. Putting more power in the hands of doctors to safely and effectively provide medications could help reduce the staggeringly high prescription drug abuse rates. Giving the overdose antidote to more first responders could save so many more lives.

And yet, President Trump did not address a single one of these recommendations, or event suggest that one of them was on his current to-do list.

Instead, he went back to his go-to argument for solving all of our problems… our borders. Again, President Trump doesn’t give any indication as to planning for expanding treatment or Naloxone access. Nope… he just promises to be-

 “-very, very strong on our Southern border.”

Did he talk about training doctors in order to avoid issues with prescription drugs? Nope. Instead he claimed:

“We’re talking to China, where certain forms of man-made drug comes in and it is bad,”

Yes, again we understand… ‘drugs are bad… mmmkay.’ But seriously, this is not the first time that this administration has shifted the focus from helping treat those who have suffered from drug addiction to ‘tough on crime’ tactics and border security. But time and time again experts in law enforcement and drug policy insist that the answer is not in attacking the supply side, but in treating those who suffer now.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters they haven’t taken anything off the table, but that they believe at this point the necessary resources and focus can be addressed without an official declaration. However, looking at what declaring the emergency would have done, why would doing it be a bad thing?

Why a National Emergency Matters

The reality is, we are all well aware of the severity of the opioid epidemic by now. However, declaring a national emergency does actually count for something.

If President Trump were to declare a national emergency it would speak volumes to the scope of the issue on a national platform. Also, coming from one of the highest authorities in the nation, it would have opened the door to making those other suggestions happen.

According to Juliet Sorensen, a professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Trump’s declaration could have:

  • Allowed the executive branch to direct federal funds to expand treatment facilities
  • President Trump would have also been able to direct funds to equip police with Naloxone
  • Allowed him to provide the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement agencies with more money to focus on the manufacturers and smugglers of dangerous drugs like fentanyl

But maybe one of the biggest impacts it could have had would have been on the rest of the House and the Senate. Fighting the opioid epidemic is one of the very few topics in politics right now that has bipartisan congressional support. Declaring a national emergency could give President Trump the perfect opportunity to unite both sides of the aisle and create cooperation and momentum.

This is a vital issue that should absolutely be a priority. Therefore, the idea of returning to an archaic, outdated philosophy concerning drug use is annoying at the least and potentially terrifying for some. The epidemic shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Maybe it is time to do more than just tell people drugs are bad. If we want to do some good, we need to support each other with compassion.

Palm Healthcare Company values compassionate, comprehensive and innovative holistic treatment opportunities to help save the lives of those that are suffering, and we encourage professionals, community leaders and family members to get involved in helping change lives for the better. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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