Here’s How President Trump Should Be Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

What’s really behind the skyrocketing problem of opioid addiction? The obvious culprit is the fact that in the early 90s doctors began prescribing opioid painkillers like Percocet and Oxycontin at much higher rates:

This chart seems pretty conclusive, but if you dive a little deeper things get more complicated. The main reason prescriptions went up is that doctors really had been undertreating pain for a long time. And it turns out that the biggest problem with high rates of opioid prescription don’t come from pain patients anyway. Addiction rates among pain patients are actually fairly low: anywhere from 0.1 percent to less than 8 percent, and very few pain patients ever move on to heroin or other drugs. Rather, the biggest part of the problem comes from people who score opioid painkillers elsewhere. And where do they get them? From leftovers sitting around their parents’ medicine chests. From friends. From the black market.

In other words, if we really want to address the opioid epidemic, our best strategy is not to focus all our attention on prescriptions among legitimate pain patients. Nor is it to refight the war on drugs yet again. Instead, we need to:

  • Get better at screening people with previous (or current) addictions.
  • Prescribe fewer pills after surgeries, but make it easy to get refills. The idea here is to limit the number of leftover pills lying around, but to do it without making things difficult for pain patients.
  • Crack down on pill mills and on shipments plainly bound for the black market—but without making doctors live in fear of the DEA knocking on their door if they treat their pain patients properly.
  • Get tougher on misleading pharmaceutical marketing.
  • Fund much more research on pain management and alternative pain strategies.

This is what President Trump ought to be doing as part of his “public health emergency” over opioid deaths.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate