Opioid Issues Declared a Public Health Emergency



On Oct. 26, President Trump declared drug addiction and opioid abuse a national public health emergency.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines opioids as “a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.”

According the Trump administration, the declaration will allow for expanded access either to substance abuse or mental health treatment. This will also enable the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to quickly hire specialists with experience in combating opioid addiction.

“The opioid addiction has ravaged households not only in Connecticut, but across the country,” said Dr. Gary Rose, Professor and Chair of Government, Politics, and Global Studies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two million Americans have become dependent on opioids.

Between 2000 and 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, and 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

“And what is truly shameful is that the U.S. Congress, as reported on ‘ 60 Minutes,’ changed a federal statute in order to give pharmaceutical companies a free hand in distributing opioids, while simultaneously diminishing the authority of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate the criminal negligence of these companies,” said Rose. “The ‘ 60 Minutes’ expose was truly revealing and disturbing.”

The investigative report on “60 Minutes” included a negative portrayal of Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania as a pro-drug industry lawmaker.  This lead Marino to withdraw his name from consideration as President Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“The declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency is a step in the right direction to help mediate the epidemic,” said Dr. Nicole Roy, Associate Professor of Biology.

“The media attention alone has helped bring this important and sometimes hidden crisis into light,” she said.

The CDC reports that opioid-induced deaths have quadrupled since 1999, with 91 Americans dying each day.

Many of these deaths are  due to legally obtained opioid prescriptions like oxycodone and fentanyl, where people are unaware of the negative side effects of the drug or how addictive the drugs are.

“Although it may be a good start, we need much more of an investment to truly tackle the issue,” said Roy. “Declaring the issue as a public health emergency limits what can be done in comparison to what could be done had it been declared a national emergency under the Stafford Act.”


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