President Trump declared his determination to end the opioid epidemic — over the next “7 years” in a New Hampshire speech.
The location was not a coincidence. New Hampshire has the third highest rate of death by opioid overdose — ending the crisis a cornerstone of state politics.
Opioid addiction and related deaths have reached a crisis point in the United States.
The death of more than 64,000 Americans in 2016 (the last year for which there is total data) underscores the urgency of the problem.
My head was nodding in agreement as the President tick-off his administration’s planned actions:
- Research to develop non-addictive pain medications.
- New pain management training for doctors to discourage unnecessary use of opioids.
- Changing Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) opioid prescription reimbursement policies to minimize over-prescription and over- dispensing.
- Increased spending for in-patient treatment of addicts.
- Increased reimbursement for mental health treatment in the Medicaid program.
- Donations – by the manufacturer – of two boxes of the overdose antidote Narcan to every high school and college in the country.
Stiffer jail sentences for drug dealers.
- Even the potential of the death penalty for drug dealers
- New vocational training programs in prisons to help first-time offenders get the skills they need to become “productive citizens” when they leave prison.
Illegal Immigration Not the Root Cause of Opioid Crisis
And then the President went further – returning to familiar themes we hear at campaign-style rallies, reporter gaggles and other formal speeches:
- The Opioid Crisis is worsened by Sanctuary Cities that protect MS 13 members.
- Fentanyl is smuggled in from Mexico. USA must build a southern border wall to keep smugglers and their drugs out of USA.
- Countries that have the death penalty for drug dealers don’t have a “drug problem”. “Maybe the USA needs a death penalty for drug dealers.”
One does not have to support Sanctuary Cities to see how coincidental the relationship between sanctuary cities and a flood of drugs on the streets of America.
MS13 is a criminal cartel formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s – who deal in drugs and other criminality because that’s where the money is! The majority of members are birthright citizens who can be imprisoned but not deported.
Didn’t Attorney General Sessions, sitting in the audience, brief the President on current law?
- There is a federal death penalty for drug dealers who peddle more than $20 million of “junk”.
- The majority of drug convictions are in state criminal courts muting a federal death penalty.
Time for a War on Fentanyl
116 preventable deaths every day – 365 days a year for several years is not an epidemic — it is a “black plague” requiring drastic action not “happy talk”!
Most of these deaths involve a synthetic opioid known as fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a legal drug, synthetic opioid, used in some medically appropriate anesthesia and pain killers – under government license.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported an increase of 512 percent in fentanyl related opioid deaths from 2012 to 2016.
A 512 percent increase in deaths from the illegal distribution of a controlled substance is an exigent circumstance.
The distribution of fentanyl on American streets must be stopped – stopped now — stopped at the source.
Kill the Opioid Crisis at the Source: China
The opiate trade with China dates back more than two centuries to when American clipper ships made the dangerous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to trade opiates, tea, and silks with China.
Clipper ships have been replaced with airplanes that carry cargo for the United States Postal Service (USPS).
In January,2018, following a year-long investigation, the United States Senate reported $766 million worth of fentanyl was “imported” from China via internet purchases delivered by the USPS. The Senate further reported the postal service had failed to purchase or deploy electronic tracking equipment to identify and stop suspicious packages from China or anywhere else.
According to NBC News, industrial quantities of Chinese fentanyl slip into the USA from Mexico.
This fentanyl crosses at perfectly legal ports of entry smuggled in cars or trucks. In terms the President would understand, fentanyl drives through the “gates in the wall” he wants to build.
The Rand Corporation argues, stopping drug trafficking through legal ports of entry requires the deployment of additional uniformed and trained personnel using sophisticated electronic detection equipment. Like the postal service, US Customs has failed to deploy these proven and effective assets.
China Can Stop Fentanyl Trade
The Chinese government gives lip service to cracking down on the fentanyl trade but has done little or nothing to close down a plethora of online sites in Chinese cyber-space that are selling fentanyl.
The President should impose serious and immediate trade penalties on China for their failure to crack down on the $766 million China to USA illegal fentanyl trade.
- More than tariffs, perhaps some outright product bans.
- Conduct an evidentiary hearing at the UN Security Council.
In addition, the President should issue an Executive Order authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USPS to purchase and deploy the currently available electronic tracking equipment needed to identify suspected fentanyl shipments from China or Mexico.
The equipment must be installed and operating reliably within 90 days – by the first of July! There can be no excuses.
Then the President must activate sufficient numbers of well-trained National Guard members to support, train, and supplement the postal and customs personnel.
The goal of this effort, in addition to all the other steps the President suggested in New Hampshire, should be to reduce the death rate from 116 people per day to less than 50 per day by the end of 2018 and to reduce that number to less than 25 a day by the end of 2019.
Cutting the fentanyl supply chain is the one thing that will make the rest of President Trump’s “plan” work to eradicate death by fentanyl.
Illustration courtesy of The Brookside Associates