White House on Opioids: U.S. ‘Enduring a Death Toll Equal to’ 9/11 ‘Every 3 Weeks’

NEW LONDON, CT - MARCH 23: A heroin user prepares to inject himself on March 23, 2016 in New London, CT. Communities nationwide are struggling with the unprecidented heroin and opioid pain pill epidemic. On March 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced guidelines for doctors to reduce …
John Moore/Getty Images
EDWIN MORA
Washington, DC

President Donald Trump should declare a national emergency in response to the nearly 142 Americans killed each day by the opioid crisis gripping the United States, a bipartisan White House panel has found.

In late March, Trump convened a commission to combat the abuse of deadly opioids like heroin, prescription painkiller medication, and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks,” wrote members of Trump’s bipartisan committee, referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the American homeland that killed nearly 3,000 people. “Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life.”

“It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will,” they continued.

Members of the panel, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), described their request for Trump to declare a national emergency as their “first and most urgent recommendation.”

In May, Dr. Thomas Gilson, the chief medical examiner for Cuyahoga County in Ohio, dubbed the nation’s overdose capital in late 2016, told U.S. lawmakers that coroner’s offices across the United States are facing “personnel shortages” and equipment failures due to the number of overdose fatalities.

“There is a national crisis in death investigation,” he declared.

Preliminary data compiled by the New York Times (NYT) reveals that 2016 drug overdose deaths in the United States increased nearly 20 percent over the unprecedented 52,404 fatalities the previous year.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the record overdose fatalities in 2015 included 33,091 opioid-linked deaths (more than 60 percent).

“All evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017,” reports NYT, noting that the “deaths are rising faster than ever.”

The White House panel’s daily opioid fatality estimate (142) marks an estimated 35 percent increase from the 91 Americans the U.S. government believed were dying each day when Trump created the committee in late March.

Some analysts have designated the opioid crisis as one of the worst drug epidemics in U.S. history.

“The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled. The average American would likely be shocked to know that drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined,” acknowledged members of the White House commission.

Some states – including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Alaska – have already declared some form of a state of emergency in response to the opioid addiction crisis.

Trump’s commission was supposed to issue an interim report when it held its first public meeting last month but delayed doing so until now.

The panel is expected to issue its final report in October.

In its preliminary report, the commission urged the Trump administration to expand access to medications that help treat opioid addiction and “rapidly increase treatment capacity” by eliminating statutory hurdles to treatment.

The Trump administration should implement “prescriber education initiatives … to enhance prevention efforts,” also suggested the commission.

It urged the U.S. government to provide model legislation to allow the dispensing of naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Moreover, the panel called on the Trump administration to “prioritize funding and manpower” to DHS, the FBI, and the DEA to develop fentanyl detection sensors as soon as possible and share them with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.

In the United States, the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl primarily originates in China and Mexico.

“In 2016, specific states witnessed an escalating number of overdose deaths due to heroin and/or fentanyl(s), in some states vastly exceeding deaths due to prescription opioids,” noted the commission.

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, has urged the Trump administration to examine the possible link between record opium production in Afghanistan and the heroin deaths in the United States.

Cultivation and production of opium and its heroin derivative reached historic levels in Afghanistan over the last few years along with opioid fatalities in the United States.

In Afghanistan, the world’s top supplier of opium and heroin, some U.S. troops have been investigated for possessing, using, or distributing heroin and other opiates.

U.S. military troops in the war-ravaged country have also fallen victim to fatal opiate overdoses.

The DEA reports that the majority of heroin in the United States originates from Mexico, adding that only an estimated one percent of the drug that is actually seized comes from Afghanistan.

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