BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., April 30, 2019 — The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released its report, “The Role of Opioid Prices in the Evolving Opioid Crisis,” on April 30, 2019, and the White House summarized the report in a fact sheet titled “Understanding and Addressing the Driving Forces of the Opioid Crisis.” Although this administration is putting more focus on and real effort in fighting this crisis than any of its predecessors, neither the full report nor the fact sheet mention the country’s lack of comprehensive, accessible mental health care.
“In order to effectively address this crisis, it is vital to understand the forces that are driving it,” according to the fact sheet. To fully understand the driving forces of the opioid crisis, however, the country needs to factor in the lack of mental health care. A clear emotional distress crisis was fed by the availability of prescription and illicit opioid drugs.
Furthermore, having access to effective and humane medical detoxification allows people to overcome the fear of withdrawal that contributes to why many have found it easier to stay dependent on prescription and illicit drugs. If the physical dependence is not there, then the emotional issues can be adequately diagnosed and addressed.
The CEA’s Summary of Opioid Crisis Causes
The CEA’s analysis separated the crisis into two waves: First, the large growth in prescription opioid related deaths that through 2010. Second, the increase in illicit opioid deaths since 2010.
The CEA summarizes factors that led to the first wave of the crisis as the following:
- Prescription opioid prices fell by 81% between 2001 and 2010
- Opioid manufacturers used deceptive marketing practices.
- Inadequate controls on prescription opioids were in place.
The fact sheet reported that the second wave of the crisis came “as individuals struggling with addiction turned to heroin in place of prescription opioids.” It did not mention people’s inability to access alternative options, such as treatment for opioid dependence, as a factor. Instead, the report and its summary attribute the second wave to the following:
- New controls decreased access to prescription opioids, causing individuals with opioid use disorders to substitute with cheaper illicit opioids such as heroin.
- Countries such as Mexico and China responded to this increased demand with more shipments of heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
- Suppliers of heroin started lacing it with fentanyl to increase drug potency, resulting in heroin-related deaths spiking over 400% and synthetic opioid deaths skyrocketing over 800% from 2010 to 2017.
The Trump Administration’s Response to the Opioid Crisis
The emergency response summary similarly leaves out any mention of increasing access to effective opioid use disorder treatments and mental health care. The full report, however, does mention some preliminary efforts on that front. President Trump’s response to the crisis is primarily focused on cutting off illicit opioid supplies and reducing prescription opioid oversupply with the following efforts:
- President Trump signed legislation to disrupt shipments of deadly drugs. Customs and Border Protection seized over 2000 pounds of fentanyl and 5700 pounds of heroin in 2018.
- President Trump is working with China to take measures to prevent trafficking of Chinese fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.
- The Department of Justice brought charges against a pharmaceutical distributor and its executives for their role in fueling the opioid crisis. The CEA report indicates the Trump Administration’s efforts have helped decrease opioid prescribing nationwide.
In terms of treatment, the CEA reports that the Trump administration is expanding access to naloxone and addiction recovery services. President Trump signed the Substance Use Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act in October 2018. The act includes provisions for expanding opioid use disorder treatment services for Medicaid and Medicare patients. Additionally, it allocated $1.5 billion for states to fund opioid addiction prevention and treatment.
Next Steps for the Trump Administration and the U.S.
The Trump Administration’s response to the opioid crisis has been strong, far-reaching and effective. With that said, the country cannot lose focus on why people seek drugs in the first place: emotional pain. A complete plan that hopes to not just successfully end the opioid crisis but also prevent new crises from surfacing needs to include more accessible medical opioid use disorder treatments and mental health care for people suffering from opioid dependence.
“Multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa,” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. People struggling with opioid use disorder need medical treatment for their drug dependence as well as various treatments to address their underlying emotional conditions.
The CEA report fact sheet leads with a quote from President Trump: “Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis.” To achieve that liberation, the administration is going to need to equip people with access to more comprehensive treatment that will free them from the bondage of opioid dependence.
About the Waismann Method® Experts
Clare Waismann, certified addiction treatment counselor, is the founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment of Opiate Dependence and Domus Retreat. As an addiction treatment specialist with over 20 years’ experience, Waismann has served as an advocate for patients suffering from opioid use disorder and mental illness, working to provide the public with the proper education to eliminate the stigma associated with both conditions. Waismann, her team, and Waismann Method® have been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, Vogue Magazine, WIRED Magazine, and many other media outlets around the world.
Dr. Michael H. Lowenstein, M.D., serves as the medical director for Waismann Method®. He is a quadruple board-certified physician. His board certifications include anesthesiology, addiction medicine and pain management. Dr. Lowenstein is recognized by the international community as a leader in opiate detoxification and has provided cutting-edge medical treatment for patients suffering from opioid use disorder for over two decades. Dr. Lowenstein continues to enhance detoxification protocols to offer medical treatment for additional substances in a safer and more effective manner. Our commitment to the well-being of our patients is as strong now as it was 20 years ago when Waismann Method® was founded.