Dear Mr. President,
The more I listen to you speak about how you are going to handle the opioid epidemic that continues to plague our country, the more I realize that your knowledge regarding the disease and the treatment necessary to maintain sobriety are almost nonexistent.
According to the CDC, drug overdoses now kill more Americans than gun violence, car accidents, AIDS or the Vietnam War. 52,000 people lost their lives in 2015. 64,000 in 2016. 72,000 in 2017. 67,000 in 2018, The number of deaths in 2019 has not yet been released. Nearly 7 out of 10 of these overdose deaths were due to opioids. This death toll can be attributed to the increased overprescribing of opioids in our country. My question to you is where is the outrage?
The first Initiative in your fight against addiction was to build a wall to prevent drugs from entering our country. Every speech, campaign stop and rally you raised your fist and chanted “Build The Wall.” Unfortunately, Mr. President, the drugs are alive and abundant right here in the USA.
Let me introduce you to Purdue Pharma. This pharmaceutical company is owned by the Sackler family. The Sacklers made the list of the richest newcomers to Forbes 2015 with their Pharmaceutical company revenue totaling $14 billion. Purdue Pharma produces the most overused, overprescribed drug in the USA, OxyContin.
OxyContin introduced in 1995 was marketed as addiction proof. The truth is OxyContin was highly addictive but the drug was misrepresented to physicians who began to overprescribe this potent pain killer for everything from back pain to arthritis.
Purdue Pharma’s cornerstone of marketing was on the deceit that the potential for addiction was practically non-existent. Their multifaceted marketing launched OxyContin out of end of life care and into every household in America’s medicine cabinet.
If you truly intend to stop the flow of drugs into our country and If you still insist on building a wall, build it around the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Your statement, “Maybe by talking to youth and telling them ‘no good, really bad for you’… if they don’t start, it will never be a problem”. I do agree that prevention education must start early and be available in every school nationwide. However, you are taking giant steps backward into the 1980s when you resurrect the “Just Say No” campaign that was a tremendous failure.
As leader of our country, you must recognize that 2.1 million Americans suffer from addiction. What you must also recognize is that addiction is not a behavioral issue. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “addiction is a chronic brain disorder, not merely a behavioral problem or simply the result of taking the wrong choices”. No amount of talking will save anyone living in the throes of this disease.
Understand that the brains of those addicted have been rewired. The brain adjusts to the opioid use by making less of natural dopamine. The disease affects brain circuitry that directly controls impulse and judgment. In lay terms, your brain turns on you becoming your worst enemy. Addiction causes distortion in how you think and behave. These behaviors are a manifestation of the disease not part of a choice.
Your thoughts of tougher sentences and longer jail time show once again your lack of knowledge regarding addiction. Rather than wasting time and money with court hearings and branding people with a label that will follow them for the rest of their lives consider providing long term, comprehensive treatment that will lead to sobriety. Incarceration is expensive and wasteful of resources. That money would be better spent in treatment programs that address the root of the addiction.
If you are serious about addressing this epidemic in a way that will be effective, then let me suggest you increase your knowledge regarding what works to treat the disease of addiction.
• First, affordable long term in-patient treatment facilities and detox units must be built in every state.
• The insurance industry must be mandated to cover addiction treatment as they cover every other chronic disease. The discrimination must end.
• Comprehensive mental health programs must be federally funded and available nationwide.
• Narcan must be affordable and available in every pharmacy in every state.
• Medication Assisted Treatment facilities must be state-regulated, accept all Insurance plans, extend hours of operation and incorporate weaning protocols. MAT is a step to recovery, not a place to live.
• Drug court teams must work with the criminal justice system ensuring that all treatment communities work together helping addicted offenders reach long term recovery.
Until Congress and you, Mr. President stop dancing around the issue we will continue to lose 200 lives a day. Donating money without earmarking where it will be used is doing no good.
Be aware that grieving mothers like me who have lost a child to this epidemic are watching and waiting for you to stop talking about what you will do and act accordingly by doing what needs to be done.