Trump opioid plan neglects addiction

When revealing his new plan to combat the opioid crisis in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday, President Donald Trump stated that “failure is not an option. Addiction is not our future.” Unfortunately, the plan he laid out is not going to stop us from losing the fight against opioid addiction and overdose (“Trump calls on death penalty to ‘get tough’ on drug pushers,” March 20).

The majority of the president’s plan involves tackling the problem of prescription and illicit opioid overdose from a law enforcement angle. He proposes enacting stricter immigration policies, building the wall between the United States and Mexico, and sentencing drug dealers with the death penalty. We learned decades ago during the “War on Drugs” that increased criminalization of drug users and dealers is ineffective. We cannot arrest our way out of a public health epidemic. Instead, we need positive change that allows people to live safely and securely without resorting to dealing drugs, and we need policies that help rather than punish those suffering from the disease of addiction.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump’s idea to use federal funds to make commercials that scare children away from drugs is not going to be widely effective. In cities like Baltimore, many people with addiction have grown up in neighborhoods and families where they have seen the carnage that drugs and overdose can cause, yet they still end up using illicit opioids. Therefore, the president’s notion that people choose to use illicit opioids because they are unaware of the dangers associated with drug use is not grounded in reality, or at least the reality that I experience every day in Baltimore.

If we are truly going to “liberate our country from this crisis,” as President Trump has suggested, we need the federal government to implement an evidence-based plan that acknowledges opioid addiction as an illness and addresses it accordingly.

Paris Bienert, Baltimore

The writer is a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

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