A jug of used needles at a needle exchange in Camden, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP)
The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a preliminary report on Monday stating that its “first and most urgent recommendation” is for the president to “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.”
“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day,” the report notes, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
The commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, states that the goals of such a declaration would be to “force Congress to focus on funding” and to “awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”
In 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, heroin deaths alone surpassed gun homicides for the first time. More than 33,000 people died of opioid overdose, with another 20,000 dying from other drugs. A recent federal study found that prescription painkillers are now more widely used than tobacco.
Prescription overdose deaths began to rise in the mid-2000, following aggressive marketing and widespread prescribing of the drugs starting in the late 1990s. In response, state and federal authorities began cracking down on prescription opiate availability, introducing “abuse-deterrent” formulations, tighter prescribing guidelines and operations targeting “pill mills” that made the drugs widely available.
But in response to these interventions, many painkiller abusers appear to have switched to illicit street drugs. As prescription painkiller deaths started to fall, heroin overdoses increased dramatically. The latest development has been the emergence of powerful synthetic opiates like fentanyl, which are sometimes mixed with heroin with fatal consequences for unsuspecting users.
In his inaugural address, President Trump cited …read more