Crisis proportions in the battle against opioids

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 07: A heroin user prepares to shoot up on the street in a South Bronx neighborhood which has the highest rate of heroin-involved overdose deaths in the city on October 7, 2017 in New York City. Like Staten Island, parts of the Bronx are experiencing an epidemic in drug use, especially heroin and other opioid based drugs. More than 1,370 New Yorkers died from overdoses in 2016, the majority of those deaths involved opioids. According to the Deputy Attorney General, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A heroin user prepared to shoot up last month in New York.

Trump’s actions on opioid epidemic are not bold enough

Re “Trump calls opioids crisis an emergency” (Page A1, Oct. 27): President Trump’s classification of the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency is a step in the right direction but still misses the mark.

The opioid epidemic deserves the resources and attention of a national emergency rather than just a public health one. The president himself called the epidemic “unparalleled,” and his own commission described the drug overdose death toll as “September 11th every three weeks.” His choice not to declare this crisis a national emergency, as he promised last month, is disheartening.

Moreover, we remain concerned about Trump’s framing of how people become addicted. His statement that “it’s really, really easy not to take” drugs overlooks the fact that addiction is a biological disease, not a weakness in will or character. At its core, addiction is a complicated public health issue, not simply the failure of addicts to make a “really easy” decision.


The Trump administration’s proposal to address the crisis includes expanded Medicaid funding, advances in nonaddictive painkillers, and educational campaigns. Beyond this plan, there is still much to be done. We urge the president to look to his own commission’s report for suggestions. As it states, “our citizens are dying” and “we must act boldly to stop it.”

Anthony Zhong

Hannah Smati


The writers are speaking on behalf of the Harvard Undergraduate Global Health Forum.

Sorry, Mr. President, but
‘Just say no’ is already taken

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The president just directed his Department of Health and Human Services to declare the devastating opioid crisis a public health emergency. Despite using the presidential bully pulpit to elevate the crisis on the national stage, he did not funnel any new federal funding to battle it. To bolster the president’s stated resolve not to let this national health emergency continue, however, he did offer to have the government produce “really tough, really big, really great advertising,” and proclaimed, “This was an idea I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs, it’s really, really easy not to take them.”

Really, really?

Perhaps the president was planning to resurrect the catchy message from the Reagan era, “Just say no.” How did that work out for the nation?

David Greenfield