White House of­fi­cials re­quest com­pas­sion for opi­oid ad­dicts

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY THOMAS HOWELL

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thurs­day called for a “cul­tural shift” in how Amer­i­cans talk about opi­oid ad­dic­tion, say­ing too many peo­ple are still un­will­ing or un­able to seek treat­ment and urg­ing com­mu­ni­ties to adopt new strate­gies to com­bat the over­dose epi­demic.

Sur­geon Gen­eral Jerome P. Adams said com­pa­nies could work to re­duce work-re­lated in­juries that spur the need for ad­dic­tive painkillers, and called on fam­i­lies to be sup­port­ive rather than judg­men­tal in prod­ding rel­a­tives to get help for ad­dic­tions.

He also said those with rel­a­tives strug­gling with ad­dic­tion should carry over­dose-re­vers­ing nalox­one.

Dr. Adams has tried to lead by ex­am­ple by talk­ing about his younger brother, who cy­cled in and out of prison due to opi­oid mis­use.

“I tell my fam­ily’s story be­cause far too many are fac­ing the same wor­ries for their loved ones. We all ask the same ques­tion: How can I con­trib­ute to end­ing the opi­oid cri­sis and help­ing those suf­fer­ing with ad­dic­tion?” Dr. Adams said. “The first step is un­der­stand­ing that opi­oid use dis­or­der is a chronic but treat­able brain dis­ease, and not a moral fail­ing or char­ac­ter flaw. Like many other chronic med­i­cal con­di­tions, opi­oid use dis­or­der is both treat­able, and in many cases, pre­ventable.”

Opi­oid use saw a slight drop in 2017, but fa­tal over­doses con­tin­ued to rise, with painkillers in­volved in 48,000 of the 72,000 drug-over­dose deaths in the U.S. last year.

Polling, though, sug­gests barely more than half of Amer­i­cans con­sider the epi­demic a “ma­jor con­cern.”

“We are still very much in the throes of the worst public health cri­sis of our times,” Brett P. Giroir, se­nior pol­icy ad­viser for opi­oids at the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment, told re­porters.

HHS on Thurs­day de­fended its ef­forts to turn the tide, and pushed back on crit­i­cism. Health Sec­re­tary Alex M. Azar II, for ex­am­ple, said a re­cent move to re­al­lo­cate up to $260 mil­lion to deal with chil­dren who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally won’t take money away from the opi­oids ef­fort.

He also said Pres­i­dent Obama made sim­i­lar agency-wide trans­fers when the num­ber of chil­dren who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally surged.

“We do not con­trol the num­ber of chil­dren that come into the coun­try,” Mr. Azar said, not­ing opi­oids fund­ing had been “walled off.”

He also said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s moves on Oba­macare, in­clud­ing al­low­ing ex­tended use of “short-term” health plans that are skimpier on ben­e­fits, won’t af­fect the ad­dic­tion fight, since the peo­ple they ex­pect to take ad­van­tage wouldn’t have been able to af­ford any cov­er­age at all oth­er­wise.

Mr. Azar said the opi­oids fight isn’t a “po­lit­i­cal is­sue,” and said both par­ties in Congress have ral­lied around leg­is­la­tion to ex­pand treat­ment op­tions and thwart po­tent syn­thet­ics from en­ter­ing the coun­try.

“Frankly, that’s a won­der­ful thing to see,” Mr. Azar said.

For its part, HHS said it is mak­ing two ma­jor changes to try and ac­cel­er­ate progress.

It will now let au­tho­rized doc­tors pre­scribe buprenor­phine — a com­mon form of med­i­ca­tion-as­sisted treat­ment for opi­oids mis­use — to peo­ple re­motely through telemedicine tech­nol­ogy.

The per­son re­ceiv­ing the med­i­ca­tion must be su­per­vised by a physi­cian, though that doc­tor won’t need to have a waiver to pre­scribe buprenor­phine. This way, peo­ple in un­der­served ar­eas can get in touch with spe­cial­ists in ur­ban ar­eas with more treat­ment op­tions.

“This will make a tremen­dous im­pact in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties,” Mr. Azar said.

The Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, mean­while, is of­fer­ing six grants to­tal­ing over $9 mil­lion to com­mu­ni­ties that want to test new strate­gies for com­bat­ting opi­oid ad­dic­tion. Of­fi­cials hope the grants will slash opi­oids abuse by 40 per­cent in those com­mu­ni­ties.

“This is a very am­bi­tious, ag­gres­sive goal, but we will ac­cept noth­ing less,” Dr. Giroir said.

Capi­tol Hill Repub­li­cans, mean­while, rolled out a bill Thurs­day that es­pouses Mr. Trump’s get-tough ap­proach to king­pin traf­fick­ers.

The bill from Sen. Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas and Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn of Ten­nessee would re­quire high-level fen­tanyl deal­ers to serve their full prison terms, say­ing they’re such a men­ace they don’t de­serve a shot at earn­ing ear­lyre­lease cred­its.

“Fen­tanyl traf­fick­ers, who killed more than 20,000 Amer­i­cans last year, should not be el­i­gi­ble for re­duced sen­tenc­ing,” Mr. Cot­ton said.

Fen­tanyl, a syn­thetic opi­oid, has eclipsed pre­scrip­tion painkillers and heroin as the No. 1 killer in the U.S. opi­oid cri­sis. Of­ten crafted in over­seas labs, fen­tanyl and its analogs are be­ing cut with the heroin sup­ply and killing un­sus­pect­ing users.

Typ­i­cally, pris­on­ers can slice 15 per­cent off of their terms by earn­ing 54 days of credit sen­tences for each year served. That means some­one serv­ing a 10-year term can get out in 8 1⁄2 years.

Dr. Jerome P. Adams

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.