22

Mar

President Trump Reveals Opioid Plan

President Trump made his first visit to New Hampshire since the 2016 campaign on Monday, unveiling a plan to combat the opioid epidemic that includes a push for the death penalty for drug dealers

“If we don’t get tougher on drug dealers, we are wasting our time,” Mr. Trump said, later adding, “That toughness includes the death penalty” — a position that was at odds with what White House officials told reporters on Sunday.

The plan the president described, which was based on recommendations by an opioid commission the president appointed last year, has the goal of reducing the supply of illicit drugs with better interdiction and tougher penalties, reducing opioid prescriptions and overall demand for opioids, and expanding access to treatment and recovery tools like the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

The plan seeks to cut the number of opioid prescriptions filled by a third within three years, a restriction that will face opposition from critics who argue it could have unintended consequences for people with chronic and even acute pain, and that it instead could force some users to seek more dangerous drugs, like heroin and synthetic fentanyl.

Officials were vague about how the prescriptions would be reduced, saying only that a main goal would be for prescribers for Medicaid, Medicare and other federal health programs to follow guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published two years ago. Those guidelines recommended that doctors first try ibuprofen and aspirin to treat pain, and that opioid treatment for short-term pain last no more than a week.

The plan says little about how addiction treatment would be expanded besides a vague goal of expanding access to “evidence-based addiction treatment” in every state, particularly for members of the military, for veterans and their families and for people leaving jail or prison.

Drug overdoses killed roughly 64,000 people in the United States in 2016, according to initial estimates from the C.D.C., and have become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

Mr. Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and in his budget plan last month proposed spending $10 billion on the epidemic over the next two fiscal years. But he did not put a specific price tag on the plan’s cost. Congress recently allotted $6 billion to address the epidemic over the next two years, which public health experts have described as a good start but not anywhere near enough.

The president also called for repealing the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid to cover much of the addiction treatment provided around the United States over the past few years.