How President Trump's speech about the opioid epidemic may be enough to demystify the stigma



On Thursday, President Trump coined the opioid epidemic a public health emergency and discussed some of the ways his administration will seek to curb its development. In his speech, he stated that by labeling it as an 'emergency', his administration will be able to pass legislation that would otherwise be difficult to do, such as increasing DEA personnel and conducting anti-drug use campaigns to prevent it from propagating further. He also briefly touched upon the release of funds, through grants, to organizations such as the NIH and NIDA with the aim of preventing future drug epidemics. However, just hours after his speech, the public immediately pushed back by questioning the very nature of the term 'public health emergency' and how it was used in his speech.

According to critics, a public health emergency doesn't necessarily release funds, at least not enough, to address an epidemic such as opioid abuse. Jon Oliver, a talkshow host who has been a vocal critic of trump, stated that the average budget for public health emergencies is approximately $56,000, while the total cost of opioid addiction is $75 billion a year. He continued to mock the agenda by showing his audience that the math boils down to 2 pennies per addict. While, access to funding is an integral component of addressing such an epidemic, the key takeaway from Trump's speech isn't necessarily a funding based solution, but rather, a form of awareness that could very well begin to shift the stigma away from addicts, which has shown to be extremely important to their wellbeing and sobriety.

Working at a rehab center and having previously used substances, helped me understand the importance of treating addiction as a disease just like alzheimer's or Parkinson's. I realized that addicts find it extremely difficulty to talk openly about their addiction, even to their family members and support groups. This communication barrier delays treatment, which eventually leads to long term abuse, ultimately overdoses and large costs for insurers and care providers. Thus, preventing the development of addiction could very well by tied to the most fundamental form of human contact; communication. By incentivizing users to talk openly about their addiction, family members, loved ones, and physicians can be the impetus to early treatment, which has proven to have a 1:2 saving ratio, that's basically a 100% percent return on investment and huge cut back on costs.

That said, Trump's speech shouldn't be analyzed strictly on the basis of funding or the 'public health emergency' label. Rather, we should take it as a step in the right direction in terms of raising awareness on an issue that has been slipped under the rug for decades. We, as active citizens, should embody that very quality by talking openly about addiction and substance abuse to our own family members and loved ones who may very well be the victims of this virulent disease.


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