Trump has no understanding of addiction. His own brother was an alcoholic who died a premature death because of alcoholism and yet his solution is to tell people “just don’t do it.” When prompted for evidence, he has said that he doesn’t drink alcohol and it isn’t that hard.
Trump’s new emergency solutions to the opioid crisis look a lot like the old “war on drugs,” and we all know how that turned out: unnecessary violence, increased black market value for illegal drugs and millions of people — mostly minorities — incarcerated for minimal drug offenses. And the giant bill was picked up by taxpayers.
Trump’s major policy suggestions have been “Just Say No” programs and harsher sentences for drug convictions. First off, numerous studies have shown that “Just Say No” programs, like the D.A.R.E. program, have low success rates and sometimes, in the case of D.A.R.E. specifically, have actually shown increases the likelihood students will use some substances.
Research on harsher drug penalties, including a 2014 study by Peter Reuter from UMD and Harold Pollack from UCHI, also shows that neither tougher punishments nor harsher supply-elimination efforts limit substance abuse more than lighter penalties.
Trump’s other idea is to block supply from Mexico with “the wall” but if we can’t even keep drugs out of American prisons, which are surrounded by walls and heavily guarded, how is a wall supposed to keep them out of an entire country?
We need to stop treating the opioid crisis as a criminal issue and start treating it as a public health issue. We need more addiction treatment and rehabilitation services in the United States. As Obama’s Drug Control Policy Director, Michael Botticelli put it, “We can’t arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people.”
The opioid crisis has hit Georgia especially hard. While some doctors are taking things into their own hands by limiting the amount of painkillers they are prescribing, Georgia lawmakers still have yet to come up with any meaningful solutions. Trump and Georgia lawmakers need to work with the public health system and community leaders to start developing science-based solutions that actually work.