Trump declares opioid epidemic a national emergency: What it means

August 13
03:44 2017

Under U.S. law (42 U.S. Code § 5122), “emergency” and “major disaster” are defined as follows:

“‘Emergency’ means any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.”


“‘Major disaster’ means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this chapter to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.”

When contacted by Yahoo News to discuss specific solutions, Christie’s press secretary, Brian T. Murray, said, “The only individuals able to discuss the commission’s work are the commission members.”

After Trump’s declaration, Christie released a statement thanking the president for accepting his commission’s recommendation.

“As I have said before, I am completely confident that the president will address this problem aggressively and do all he can to alleviate the suffering and loss of scores of families in every corner of our country,” Christie said.

During his inaugural address, Trump vowed to stop the carnage of “crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Christie’s commission wrote, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

The American Society of Medicine reports that there were 52,404 fatal drug overdoses in 2015 and that opioid addiction is fueling this crisis: 20,101 deaths involved prescription pain relievers and 12,990 deaths involved heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of opioid overdoses has quadrupled since 1999.

While declaring the national emergency, Trump said that the opioid crisis stretches far beyond the United States’ borders.

“And I have to say this, in all fairness,” Trump said on Thursday. “This is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”

Calling it a worldwide problem seemingly downplays the specific problem of opioid use and addiction in the United States, which has been largely fueled by the pharmaceutical industry’s push for widespread pain prescriptions.

Americans constitute only 4.6 percent of the world population but consume 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply, 99 percent of its hydrocodone supply and two-thirds of its illegal drugs, according to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.

Deni Carise, a clinical psychologist and the chief clinical officer at Recovery Centers of America, said the modern opioid epidemic can be traced back to Purdue Pharma’s mass marketing push for Oxycontin in the mid-’90s.

“That’s since been found to be unethical. They were fined $ 364 million in 2007, which they paid, but that’s kind of like you or I paying $ 6,” Carise told Yahoo News.

Meanwhile, she explained, the American Pain Association had urged doctors to accept pain as the “fifth vital sign” to monitor, along with body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate.

“Purdue marketed Oxycontin very heavily, saying it’s not just for end-of-life pain or cancer pain now. It’s for every kind of pain. And they targeted primary docs and family-care docs,” Carise said.

On Tuesday, New Hampshire sued Purdue Pharma for opening “the floodgates” to opioid abuse.

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