In a private conversation with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto earlier this year, President Trump called New Hampshire a ‘drug-infested den,’ where drugs are sold for less than candy.
“We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call published by the Washington Post on Thursday. “I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.”
Advocates say these comments are the latest example of the Trump administration’s efforts to escalate the war on drugs, both in terms of policy and rhetoric, in ways that are dramatically out of step with bipartisan efforts across the country to treat the opioid crisis as a health issue. Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the Opioid Epidemic a “Winnable War” and urged law enforcement to pursue prosecutions for illegal possession of prescriptions. Sessions’s remarks came just two days after President Trump’s bipartisan Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released an interim report to the president recommending a major expansion of treatment and other health resources to address the opioid crisis. The opioid commission’s recommendations clash with the Trump administration’s efforts in recent months to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would rollback healthcare, treatment and mental health coverage for millions of people living with opioid use disorder.
asha bandele, Senior Director at the Drug Policy Alliance released the following statement:
“Trump’s comments are reprehensible and will do nothing to save lives. We who are concerned with disrupting morbidity and actually ensuring people’s lives should be worried about the language of fear and shame he promotes. At a moment when Trump has pushed to reduce healthcare, including drug treatment for millions, and his attorney general is seeking to reinvigorate the now widely acknowledged failed practices of a punitive drug war, what we should all be talking about are the solutions that actually save people’s lives. There are things we know. First, people in all societies known to us have used drugs. The question we should seek to answer, then, given this, is what has ensured their lives? The answer to that can be found in the plethora of interventions rooted in compassion and public health.
“If Trump was truly concerned about the loss of life, he would seek to promote the myriad life-saving and life-transforming interventions available. He would be working to ensure naloxone was widely available so that no one had to overdose from opiates. There would be public education campaigns – like there are about smoking and drinking – that would warn people not to mix opioids with other drugs, help people understand proper dosage and testing available so people knew what they were actually ingesting. Voluntary treatment would widely be available, no matter what a person’s economic status is. We’ve seen evidence of success in not only reducing drug related morbidity but also drug addiction in countries all over Western Europe where leaders have actually demonstrated care and concern for the citizens they serve, rather than demonstrating derision and demonization of them. Stigmatizing people as Trump does only moves them away from protocols that could not only save their lives, but elevate the quality of them. Shame on him.”