President Donald Trump yesterday declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency – a move that he said will help “liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction.”
The president, surrounded by lawmakers and advocates, said that the government’s plan to fight the opioid epidemic would include “really tough, really big, really great advertising” that would try to persuade people against using drugs in the first place.
“This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs, it’s really, really easy not to take them,” Trump said.
His plan to combat the nation’s drug problem with the willpower of the average American is vastly different from the strategy highlighted by FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who earlier this week underscored the importance of expanding access to medication-assisted treatment to curb the opioid epidemic.
Medication-assisted treatment has long been associated with a stigma, with critics arguing that people are simply replacing one drug with another.
“The stigma reflects a view some have that a patient is still suffering from addiction even when they’re in full recovery, just because they require medication to treat their illness,” Gottlieb said in a testimony before Congress.
“This attitude reveals a flawed interpretation of science. It stems from a key misunderstanding many of us have of the difference between a physical dependence and an addiction.”
Beyond advocating for the use of MAT, Gottlieb said the FDA was prepared to re-evaluate the framework that the agency uses to determine which opioids make it to market – a move that could result in the FDA recommending that some products be withdrawn.
The move marked the first time the federal regulatory watchdog has urged a company to remove an opioid painkiller due to concerns of abuse.
Since the president’s declaration, critics have pointed out that his decision doesn’t include any new federal funding and falls short of the promise he made in August to declare the epidemic a national emergency.
There’s not a lot of money available in the public health emergency fund – just $57,000, according to The Hill.
Trump’s public health emergency declaration doesn’t call on Congress to appropriate new money to the crisis and advocates criticized the president for making what they described as a largely symbolic move.
“There is no solution without funding,” Rebecca Farley David, VP of policy & advocacy at the National Council for Behavioral Health told the news outlet. “We heard many bold words, now it’s the time to back that up with bold action and funding. Otherwise, those words become empty promises.”