Donald Trump has officially declared the country’s opioid epidemic a national emergency, a standing usually reserved for natural disasters, to free up more federal funds to help combat the use and sale of drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. In his public declaration, Trump once again chose to omit any mention of prescription painkillers or the pharmaceutical industry.
Trump was briefed by the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis on Wednesday of this week, and followed up the meeting with a public speech in which the commander in chief sounded more like an ill-informed high school guidance counselor than the most powerful man in the world.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem,” Trump said on Wednesday. “If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off. So we can keep them from going on, and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, ‘No good; really bad for you’ in every way. But if they don’t start, it will never be a problem."
Trump did not call for emergency protocol, despite the request from the opioid commission. Understandably, that didn’t go over very well with medical professionals, policy experts and the millions of Americans affected by the overprescription of pain pills and damage opioid addiction is causing across the nation.
To try and right his misstep from the day before, Trump got back in front of the media on Thursday to assure the American public that he would be declaring a national emergency, while also confirming that he still knows absolutely nothing about the reality of the country’s painkiller problem.
“We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency,” Trump said on Thursday. “It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had. You know, when I was growing up, they had the LSD, and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years.”
The fact that Trump even feels comfortable mentioning LSD in the same sentence as the current opioid issue should show just how little he knows about what’s really going on in the country he’s responsible for running. The president also failed to mention America’s struggles with crack cocaine in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, a drug that’s criminalization largely affected the country’s minority populations, unlike opiates, which are more prevalent in white communities.
Neither the White House or federal health officials have actually said what the national emergency declaration will mean for opiate addicts and their families, but, if Trump’s public speeches are any indication, it will have nothing to do with the pharmaceutical industry and likely focus instead on Jeff Sessions’ fantasies of a rekindled war on drugs.
“If you declare a state of emergency, you can move federal resources more easily between programmatic areas,” Michael Fraser, the executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said. “When it comes to opioids, it’s really unclear.”