A drug dealer crackdown won’t solve the opioid crisis

President Donald Trump’s administration’s plan to address the opioid crisis is concerning because it suggests a departure from Obama-era drug policies that focused on criminal justice and healthcare reform. Instead, it is a return to the failed policies of the war on drugs.

“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time,” President Donald Trump said during a speech in New Hampshire on Monday. He added: “that toughness includes the death penalty.”

The Trump administration has been exploring the creation of this new policy as part of an initiative that aims to tackle the opioid crisis in the U.S. by reducing the supply and demand of illegal drugs while making medical treatment for addiction and overdose more available and affordable.

Efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs will focus primarily on increasing funding to drug enforcement activity, strengthening borders, and cracking down on criminals through stricter sentencing. The plan to reduce the demand for drugs includes pharmaceutical industry reform, but is centered around a $50 million marketing campaign to educate children about the dangers of drugs.

These policies did not work when they were implemented before, and they will not work now. According to a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were three times higher than they were in 1999.

When the president suggests that some drug dealers should be executed at the expense of the American taxpayer, it is not indicative of a tougher drug policy — it is bombast designed to distract from the administration’s inability to design effective bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid crisis.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 Americans die every day as a result of opioid overdoses. During the 107 days that came and went between the president’s directive to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency and the Feb. 12 release of a new budget that proposed an increase in federal funding to address the epidemic, a conservative estimate puts the death toll from opioid overdose at 12,305 people.

An increase in funding is certainly a step in the right direction — the opioid crisis is an incredibly complex issue, and any feasible solution requires the large-scale reform of law enforcement, legislature, healthcare, and education.

It is the way in which the Trump administration plans to spend these additional funds that is problematic; this shift in policy from prevention to punishment is an obvious step backwards.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the budget includes $775 million in increased funding for drug enforcement activities, a figure comparable to the $900 million in increased funding for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, the Trump administration plans to allocate $13 billion to address the opioid epidemic, only a fraction of the $18 billion it has requested to build the president’s proposed border wall.

During his discussion of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, the president remarked that the directive “should have been done a long time before.” The legislation and budgetary proposals that aim to address this epidemic must reflect exactly that same sense of urgency and understanding of the issue.

Lofty promises and bold declarations are no substitute for immediate action when it comes to an issue so pressing — it is time to hold President Trump’s feet to the fire and demand a modernized drug policy that reduces harm, saves lives, and changes the way we treat addiction in order to foster a lasting solution to the opioid crisis.

via The News Journal/ Delaware Online

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