Last month, President Donald Trump held a press briefing to declare the opioid crisis a “national public health emergency." The announcement followed two widely publicized articles in Esquire and The New Yorker, respectively profiling the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, which manufactures the highly addictive painkiller, Oxycontin.
But whether this announcement marks the beginning of a major overhaul remains to be seen. No emergency funding has been extended to aid programs that could help reduce the instance of a prescription drug overdose. According to The New York Times, the classification of “national public health emergency” allows for “some grant money to be used to combat opioid abuse,” and expansion of online doctor services to less populated areas.
There is approximately $57,000 left in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) public health emergency fund. Just a few weeks prior, the HHS released a statement announcing “an additional $144.1 million in grants to prevent and treat opioid addiction.”
To give some perspective, the gun lobby spent roughly $8 million on political contributions in the last decade. The lobby behind opioids spent ten times that: $880 million. Drug overdoses also doubled in the last decade. There were 64,070 total overdoses just last year.
That number is up from the roughly 33,000 opioid overdose deaths that took place in 2015. In that same year, 30 percent of opioid addicts were covered by Medicaid— a program that would be gutted should Trump successfully repeal Obamacare.
Easier access to highly addictive substances like heroin and fentanyl would keep overdose numbers higher than they need to be without adequate resources to cease or curb dependency and halt the opioid crisis.
Two days following the aforementioned press briefing, the Drug Enforcement Agency held a record-breaking Prescription Drug Take Back Day event. Its largest event in 14 years, about 456 tons of prescription drugs that were either unused or expired were safely disposed of. Over 9 million pounds of unwanted drugs have been collected since the program began.