An August 23, 2017 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) supports President Trump’s stated intention to declare the nation’s opioid epidemic a national emergency.
The editorial’s authors, legal scholars Lawrence O. Gostin, James G. Hodge, Jr. and Sarah A. Noe, note the terrible scale of the crisis–”more than 600 000 deaths have occurred to date, with 180 000 more predicted by 2020″–and the tremendous risk posed by the heroin and the illicit synthetic opioids many users turn to. Carfentanil and furanyl-fentanyl acquired illegally or by mail order, they write, are “potentially lethal through unintentional skin absorption, inhalation, incorrect dosing, or lacing with other drugs.” The epidemic has also accelerated HIV and hepatitis transmission.
The costs to society–$92 billion in 2016 (an increase of 67% over a decade ago), according to JAMA–are also substantial, with public agencies, law enforcement, and medical professionals all working furiously to change policies, shut down the dangerous flow of opioids, and save lives.
The authors support an emergency declaration because it will mobilize resources more effectively. “It may have taken years for this epidemic to reach crisis levels,” they conclude, “but it could take only months for coordinated, bipartisan interventions across public and private sectors to take hold. Preventable deaths and injuries attributable to opioid misuse will never be acceptable, but the emergency should come to an end when opioid addiction and death rates return to historic lower levels.”