President Trump’s declaration that opioid abuse is a public health emergency is sparking debate about addiction. Tragically, myths and misinformation are blocking the path to preventing more deaths.
Start with the causes of the opioid crisis. On Face the Nation, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, chair of Trump’s opioid commission, blamed over-prescribing doctors. “This crisis started not on a street corner somewhere. This crisis started in the doctor’s offices and hospitals of America.” That’s untrue, Governor.
It contradicts scientific evidence and lets drug abusers off the hook. At least three quarters of opioid pill abusers and almost all heroin addicts got hooked without ever having been prescribed pain medication for an injury or illness, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Emergency room records show only a fraction — 13% — of opioid overdose victims began taking drugs because of pain, according to the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The media feature many stories about patients who needed pain killers and later became addicts, but these are exceptions, not the rule.
Experimenting with opioids — whether heroin or pills — is almost always a choice. A bad choice.
Young adults account for 90% of first time abusers. To protect the next generation from making that mistake, Trump proposes a “massive advertising campaign to get people, especially children, not to want to take drugs in the first place.” The liberal media mock Trump’s proposal as a throwback to the 1980s, but in fact he’s on the mark.