On Tuesday, while conducting a “working vacation” from his Bedminster, N.J. club, Donald Trump took five minutes from his busy golf schedule to address the nation’s opioid crisis. Six months into the new administration, the commission on opioid addiction concluded that Trump should declare a national emergency to combat the growing crisis. As with most instances when experts offer advice, Trump ignored his own blue-ribbon panel.
Instead of following his commission’s recommendation, Trump responded by suggesting a policy that mimicked former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Trump outlined his rudimentary plan to combat the addiction crisis that kills almost 150 Americans every day by saying we should talk to children and tell them that drugs are, “No good, really bad for you in every way.”
Trump’s single statement encompasses the entire scope of thought given to his plan to save the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and other family and friends who struggle daily with addiction. His proposed drug policy is as equally despicable as every other policy he has suggested since taking office in that it is not a policy. Trump’s failures at every juncture to educate himself and rely on expert opinion demonstrate how little he cares for the needs and well-being of the people of America.
Last week in West Virginia, during yet another rally to his insatiable ego, Trump whipped a raucous crowd of adoring fans into a stale chant of, “Lock her up!” West Virginia is a state consumed by the opioid crisis and the consequences of addiction. The state’s problem is so bad and results in so many deaths, that the Department of Human Services provides funeral money to needy families who have lost loved ones to addiction.
Adoring fans cheered for Trump and welcomed him last Thursday in Huntington, W.V. However, in a state with the highest overdose death rate in the country, will they still be cheering after Trump announced the only help coming was to tell their kids that drugs are bad? His plan seems a bit simple even by West Virginia standards.
Trump’s cavalier attitude about a problem that affects so many people is another reminder that he is not fit for the Oval Office. With over 20 million Americans besieged by substance abuse — nearly one in ten over the age of 12 — practically everyone knows someone affected by the scourge of drugs. Trump, in his family’s ivory tower, has no care or ability to understand or relate to the epidemic. By not caring, he will deny millions the help they need.
West Virginia is not an isolated instance of tragedy, but a representative sliver of the substance abuse issues consuming every state in the nation. Regardless of what town, city, or state, health officials cannot combat addiction by reviving Nancy Reagan’s Pollyanna “Just say no!” campaign. It is an outdated and ineffective model and Trump deserves to be derided for his basic lack of creativity in stealing Mrs. Reagan’s notion.
Trump made the same mistake that millions of critics make each day. They assume that a future addict wakes up in the morning and makes a conscious decision to use drugs. Trump relies on an erroneous notion that characterizes his worldview as elementary as the children he wants to warn about “really bad” drugs. Blaming the addict is not the answer to effective treatment or remission.
Equally destructive to combating America’s addiction crisis was Trump’s suggestion of tough law enforcement actions and severe criminal penalties. Drug addicts need medical and mental health assistance — the kind of services provided by comprehensive health insurance plans and Obamacare — not handcuffs and jails.
Addiction is more than a personal struggle. It is a crisis that affects friends, family, and society. An addict’s daily choices, habits, and use are more than a personal tragedy. Substance abuse often has far-reaching effects that touch the most unlikely victims. It is a problem that eludes the good intentions of many, and destroys the lives of those not strong enough to understand or confront it.
In his hastily conceived national drug policy, Trump will do more damage than good for the sole reason that he neither understands, nor wishes to confront the opioid epidemic. Of course, Trump is an addict himself, and the first step to facing addiction is to admit to being an addict — whether the addiction is to substances or substanceless pop celebrity. Until Trump faces his own hungry demons, America cannot rely on him to help anyone.