According to historical legend, the Gordian knot was a knot so difficult that it was impossible to unravel. Alexander the Great solved the problem by cutting it with a sword. You could consider that as either cheating, taking the easy way out, or practical, creative.
President Donald Trump has pledged to solve the Gordian knot of drug addiction, opioid addiction in particular. His proposed solution is to execute drug dealers as is done in our fellow enlightened democracies of Singapore and the Philippines.
The idea seems to be that since it is too difficult to end the demand for illicit drugs, instead we will take the easy way out and end the supply by executing the drug dealers.
(“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — William Shakespeare, Henry the VI, Part 2)
According to “a White House-provided transcript” of the President’s speech in Manchester, New Hampshire March 19, Trump’s actions on the opioid crisis since declaring it a public health emergency last October include:
- Getting Congress to agree to at least $6 billion dollars in new funding for 2018 and 2019 “to combat the opioid crisis.”
- Conducting National Prescription Drug Take Back Days during which “people across the country turned in more than 900,000 pounds of unused or expired prescription drugs“
- The seizure of nearly 1,500 pounds of fentanyl by Customs and Border Protection,”nearly three times the amount seized in 2016″
- The arrest of 76,000 “criminal aliens” by ICE “for dangerous drug crimes.”
- The prosecution of more than 3,000 defendants for opioid trafficking and other crimes by the Department of Justice
- “Operation Granite Shield, an 18-hour enforcement action targeting drug traffickers that resulted in the arrest of 151 people.”
- “Aggressively” following the 56 recommendations of his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
While Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “compassionate treatment for people — evidence-based, science-based, compassionate treatment — that can help people recover and stay away from relapse: was part of the White House’s three-pronged attack on opioids, there was little in Trump’s presentation to bolster that opinion.
Of the new measures Trump himself proposed, the one that he mentions first and repeats most often is the death penalty for some drug crimes — not just for opioids but also the “general drug crisis.”
Other promised actions include:
- Reduce drug demand by preventing Americans from becoming addicted in the first place.
- Spend a lot of money on “great commercials showing how bad [addiction] is.“
- Launch a new website, CrisisNextDoor.gov, “where Americans can share their stories about addiction
- Increase federal funding for the development of non-addictive painkillers. (No mention of decriminalizing marijuana or CBD, however.)
- Reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.
- Possibly bring major litigation against some of the drug companies that promoted these dangerously addictive opioids.
- Build a wall on the southern border to reduce the supply of illicit drugs coming into the country.
- “Confront” so-called sanctuary cities that don’t always cooperate with federal immigration officers.
- Shut down “illegal online marketplaces” for illegal drugs such as fentanyl.
- Help ensure first responders have access to overdose-reversing naloxone/Narcan.
- Allow medical providers to tell parents and loved ones that the patient needs drug rehab treatment.
- Allow facilities with more than 16 beds to receive payments through Medicaid.
- Make medically assisted treatment more available and affordable.
Trump also spent an unusual amount of time talking about getting pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices in the US, which is at best tangentially related to the drug crisis, “Right to Try” experimental drug treatments, and DACA (which he claimed Democrats want to tie to the Wall; rightly or wrongly, it is Trump who has tied the two together by saying he won’t sign a DACA bill that doesn’t include funding for the Wall).
The speech was promoted as explaining how Trump thought the $6 billion allocated earlier should be spent on the opioid crisis, but no specific amounts were named. Only the last, vague item — “making medically assisted treatment more available and affordable” — seems directed at treatment. Prevention and restriction of opioid availability seem to be the main focus of Trump’s opioid agenda. That portends poorly for the current addict seeking drug rehab, and maybe for legitimate chronic pain patients, too.