Yesterday (March 19, 2018), President Donald J. Trump announced his Initiative to Stop Opioids Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand to address the opioid crisis in the United States. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has long called for a comprehensive federal plan to address our current crisis of opioid addiction and overdose, and is pleased the Administration is now devoting the time and attention necessary to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic. Drug overdoses have surpassed traffic fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. for some time, and concerted and meaningful action to reduce overdose deaths is long overdue.
ASAM strongly supports the Administration’s goals of increasing access to evidence-based addiction treatment and recovery support services and enhancing prevention and early intervention efforts as part of a national plan. ASAM supports a nationwide, evidence-based campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid misuse, and calls on the Administration to include information about evidence-based treatment options as part of this campaign. Expanding access to medication treatment in every state, ensuring first responders are equipped to respond to overdoses with naloxone, and providing on-demand access to evidence-based treatment for our service members, veterans and their families are all integral pieces to an effective response to this epidemic.
However, ASAM remains concerned about elements that would increase criminal penalties for drug-related offenses and limit treatment options for those involved in the criminal justice system. History has made clear that punitive approaches to drug crises are ineffective means to reduce demand for drugs. Those who are incarcerated, regardless of the reason, should have access to all evidence-based medication treatment options, not just one.
Corey Waller, MD, MS, FACEP, DFASAM, Chair of ASAM’s Legislative Advocacy Committee, had this to say about the President’s announcement:
“President Trump’s plan rightly recognizes addiction as a chronic brain disease and includes many important initiatives to reduce the suffering and death caused by this terrible disease. However, as has been said before, we cannot arrest and prosecute our way out of this crisis, and an overemphasis on law enforcement approaches at the expense of prevention, treatment and recovery support services, will not serve our nation well. ASAM stands ready to be part of what should, and must be, a nationwide effort to prevent deaths and engage people in treatment, while we lay the groundwork for a more robust addiction treatment infrastructure and workforce that will lead us all to a stronger and healthier future.”