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Can Trump Cut Down On The Largest Cause Of Accidental Deaths?

It Far Exceeds Car Accidents.

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The start of Donald Trump’s Presidency has created more questions than answers so far. Despite his bombastic style and larger-than-life proclamations, Trump has been unusually quiet on a series of key topics. One of the most critical is an issue that has become a major health concern—Americans’ increasing addiction to opioids. These substances, such as heroin—but also legal forms such as prescription painkillers—have even overtaken car accidents as a leading cause of accidental fatalities.

Experts around the country have raised alarm bells that this growing epidemic might be reaching a tipping point, and statistics agree with them. During his campaign, Trump vowed to tackle this crucial issue head on, and his first budget blueprint takes a concrete step to help fund the fight against opioid addictions. With a large sum proposed to be earmarked to actively combat the addiction issue, as well as a proposed fund to attack the supply side of the problem, Trump could be on his way to making a dent in America’s opioid problem.

A Rapidly Growing Epidemic

The problem of opioid addiction has quickly become a massive concern for the United States. Per the National Security Council, drug overdoses have now overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. In 2014 alone, over 42,000 people died from overdose; a whopping 13,486 of them from using opioids. Today, the situation has worsened, with an estimated 91 Americans dying every day from opioid overdoses, a number that includes deaths from both legal drugs such as OxyContin and illegal substances such as heroin.

Until recently, the main tactic deployed by the US to combat the problem of drug addiction and abuse has been to attack the supply. The “War on Drugs” has resulted in billions of dollars spent on law enforcement and aggressive policies that many insist have done more harm than good. Experts agree that the strategy of hurting suppliers does not deal with the issue of demand, which has increased even as spending on drug enforcement has skyrocketed.

The Obama Administration took some steps to combat the opioid epidemic, but eyes have now turned to Trump to see if he would translate his loud words into powerful actions. It seems, at least initially, that he has accepted the challenge. Although Trump’s new budget proposal has hacked and sliced millions in domestic spending, one area where there was a conspicuous increase was in an expansion of funds to combat opioid abuse and the growing public health crisis.

Trump’s “Skinny Budget” Could Be a Boon for Drug Treatment

Despite political and partisan bickering over the Trump Administration’s budget blueprint, one area that stood out as a surprise was the amount of money earmarked, and increased, to help combat the rising opioid epidemic. In Trump’s proposal, a new $500 million increase in spending would be earmarked to directly deal with opioid abuse prevention and to help offer better access to treatment and recovery services. This is excellent news to thousands of social workers and drug treatment centers, who have historically been underfunded and understaffed in favor of heavy spending on law enforcement solutions.

Groups such as US Addiction centers, which operates a network of progressive and innovative rehabilitation and recovery centers across America, could greatly benefit from this boost in federal funding as they work to tackle one of the root problems of the drug epidemic. The group offers a variety of treatments to help its participants kick drug addiction permanently. Moreover, researchers also stand to see an increase in grants to help combat this problem.

Most policy experts agree that to truly make a dent in the rising number of overdose and abuse cases, the focus should be on treatment and creating medications that can help deal with the physical dependence created by addiction. This would include drugs with a proven track record such as Narcan, which can combat the instant effects of opioids for short periods, and the “wonder drug” Vivitrol, which has already been shown to help combat the effects of heroin for up to 30 days at a time. One of the areas where Trump’s $500 million expansion could help combat the epidemic would be in allowing these treatments, and others like them, to be delivered for free to those people who need them most, instead of the prohibitive prices that have become industry standards.

Can Trump Make a Difference?

It remains to be seen whether this increase in spending will have a noticeable impact on the opioid problem. While it has been touted by the administration and several experts, some remain skeptical about the true potential. However, an expanded budget to help provide better access to vital treatment and rehabilitation could be a major win in the fight against opioid abuse. Additionally, Trump has also proposed an increase in law enforcement funding to help simultaneously combat the supply side of drug addiction, to truly tackle the issue from both sides. Although the long-term effects of the proposed expansion remain to be seen, many should be heartened by the early actions of the young administration to combat this worrying problem.

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