A group of senators say a lack of urgent action from the White House on the opioid crisis is making them question President Donald Trump’s commitment to fighting drug addiction.
Democratic Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sent a letter to Trump Monday imploring the White House to focus greater resources on combating opioid abuse. Eight other senators, all Democrats, signed the letter, which criticizes the president for not enacting more concrete steps to help turn the tide on addiction, reports Lowell Sun News.
Trump created the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis through an executive order March 29 and tapped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead the efforts. In an interim report given to Trump July 31, the commission implored him to declare the crisis a national emergency, noting that “with approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
Despite the recommendation and statements from Trump calling the opioid crisis a national emergency, the White House has not made any formal emergency declaration.
“(Y)our lack of action — coupled with your support for policies that would make access to substance use disorder care and treatment more difficult for millions of Americans — causes us to question your commitment to ending the opioid use disorder and overdose crisis,” Markey and Warren said in the letter, according to Lowell Sun News. “Regardless of whether you choose to declare a state of emergency, continued inaction on this issue is deeply concerning.”
The letter asks for an update on the White House process to make a formal declaration, and why the action is seemingly being delayed. The senators also want greater clarity from the White House on their long term strategy to combat addiction and if they will act on any other recommendations from the opioid commission in the near future.
The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released their first preliminary report in August giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. The CDC estimates that drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, killing 64,070 Americans. Opioid deaths rose from 33,000 in 2015 to nearly 50,000 in 2016, driven primarily by fentanyl.
Fentanyl, which is roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is also fueling an increase in cocaine deaths, as dealers are increasingly cutting the fatal painkiller into their cocaine supplies. The CDC estimates cocaine overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015. Officials say cocaine overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates drug overdoses will kill more than 70,000 Americans in 2017.
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