Recently, the Trump administration announced that the opioid epidemic and the addiction that it has caused is a national emergency that was going to require government attention. This declaration is an enormous deal in the continuing fight to reduce the effects of addiction that have spread over the country and has disproportionately affected our elderly, as well as the millennials that are supposed to be joining the workforce. However, it’s important to take a step back and look at what a declaration of a national emergency means and what exactly it changes. Here are some things to keep in mind, in the months and years ahead…
“There are two different national emergency laws that could be used.”
First of all, it’s important to note that Trump hasn’t actually made an official declaration of a national emergency through the legal system, but has said that he is going to do so. At the moment, the administration says it is exploring options about how it is going to go about declaring the emergency.
There are two laws that it must decide between when making the declaration: the Stafford Act or the Public Health Service Act. A declaration made under The Stafford Act would open up funding that is used for natural disasters and other such relief funds, while the Public Health Service Act would utilize medical resources that are at the government’s disposal. Either way, money and personnel would be deployed to different areas in need.
“More funding would be opened up”
Either way, one of the major differences that an official declaration of a national emergency would mean is that more funding would be opened up to fight addiction around the country. This would especially benefit rural areas, which are horribly underfunded, at the moment, when it comes to fighting addiction.
For example, even though rates of substance abuse are similar between rural and urban areas, the overdose and chronic addiction rates are drastically higher in rural areas, due to the fact that urban areas benefit from more concentrated resources to focus on treatment. A national emergency fund would allow rural areas with more tools to prevent substance abuse is areas that have been alienated, thus far.
“Just a declaration alone brings greater awareness.”
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest benefits of declaring a national emergency has actually already been set in motion before Trump has even officially taken any other meaningful action. Just making a declaration that he is planning to make a declaration brings a great deal of awareness to the addiction situation in our country, as there are over 140 Americans that die every day, due to fatal drug overdoses.
“A national emergency combats the stigma of addiction.”
In a similar vein to the awareness that such a declaration brings, talking about the addiction epidemic as a national emergency also does a great deal to make this more of a health issue, rather than a moral one. Sadly, there is still a major stigma that surrounds addiction and substance abuse, which stems from a misunderstanding of the medical nature of addiction as a behavioral disease. A declaration of a national emergency does a great deal to combat that stigma and rallies the country around solving a problem that we have neglected to address for years.
“Lower drug prices could follow.”
One of the major points of the declaration that was brought up by Trump is that the administration plans to use its powers of national emergency to negotiate lower prices on lifesaving overdose drugs like naloxone. While it is uncertain how the administration could do this, and there isn’t outlined plan on how they would, what they can do to open up access is to waive restrictions on doctors who can prescribe drugs that fight the effects of addiction and eliminating limits on how many people doctors who specialize in addiction are able to treat.
“A real fix must spread to the pharmaceutical industry.”
While a national emergency is a great step in the right direction, we can’t continue to fight a problem like addiction without first acknowledging the root of the problem. The opioid epidemic didn’t come from nowhere, and the nefarious truth about this situation is that it originated in the very medical system that is meant to keep our population healthy. Most people who are addicted to prescription opioids and harder opiates, like heroin, got these drugs legally, and for a good reason, in the first place.
Until we can eliminate our pharmaceutical industry’s addiction on prescribing prescription opioid painkillers that they know contain a high risk of addiction, we won’t be able to stem the continuing cycle of addiction. Hopefully, the national emergency causes the government to look at the cause, and not just the effect.
~Article Courtesy of Author, Alek Sabin