The Justice Department's New Opioid 'Tools' Are All About Escalating the Drug War

Expect more raids and more arrests.


Kellyanne Conway
Cheriss May/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Robert Patterson, acting administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), announced new efforts to address opioid overdoses in America today.

In line with his insistent (and mistaken) belief that what America needs to stop deaths is an escalation of the failed drug war, Sessions called for increased funding and staff for the purposes of arresting and prosecuting more people.

Here are the basics of what he and Patterson announced today:

  • More than $12 million in grant funding to state and local law enforcement agencies specifically engaged in investigating and arresting those involved in illicit opioid and meth manufacturing.
  • A new DEA field division office in Louisville, Kentucky, focusing on drug enforcement in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. This action expands an existing district office, and again, the goal here is investigating and arresting people for drug trafficking.
  • A new "opioid coordinator" for each U.S. attorney's office in the United States to be named by mid-December. The memo from Sessions to these offices makes it clear that the emphasis for this coordinator is to provide legal advice to each attorneys' office to prosecute more opioid cases and calls for the office to keep track of opioid prosecution statistics from their offices.

Separately, and somewhat mystifyingly, the administration announced that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway will be its lead representative in the opioid fight. Conway was already playing this role, previously saying the administration supports efforts to change the way doctors measure pain to keep drug-seekers from faking it in order to land prescriptions.

Given that the Trump administration has been trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act as an intrusive government intervention into our healthcare, it's a bit hypocritical to see support for such a paternalistic and authoritarian meddling in people's personal pain management.

The role prescription opioids have played in the overdose crisis has been misunderstood and exaggerated. As Jacob Sullum noted recently, the number of opioid users who ultimately become addicted any given year is relatively small (one to two percent) and the rate of fatal overdoses among users with prescriptions is even smaller.

Overdose deaths are more likely to come from people combining drugs or combining opioids with alcohol, and these problems are actually exacerbated when you force people with drug addictions into the black market, where they'll end up taking opioids of unknown origins that may be laced with other drugs. That's exactly what will happen with an expanded anti-opioid effort.

Alternatively, more and more scientific evidence is showing that medical marijuana is useful for helping people manage chronic pain and avoid addiction to opioids. But Sessions is completely opposed to marijuana use and the Justice Department is considering how or whether they're going to continue taking a hands-off approach toward state-level legalization.

In short, the Department of Justice's current approach and attitude toward fighting opioid overdoses is incoherent and bound to make the problems worse. These are "tools" to cause more harm and pain to people's families, not to ease them.

NEXT: Garrison Keillor Fired From Minnesota Public Radio, American Airline Glitch Gives Every Pilot Christmas Off, Naked Tag in Nazi Gas Chamber: P.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Given that the Trump administration has been trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act as an intrusive government intervention into our healthcare, it’s a bit hypocritical to see support for such a paternalistic and authoritarian meddling in people’s personal pain management.

    Can the government make people use broccoli as an analgesic?

    1. Yeah but you won’t like how you get it into your system.

      You guessed it! Its a suppository.

      1. Doctors hate him for this one simple trick!

        1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,

          go? to tech tab for work detail,,, http://www.onlinecareer10.com

        2. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

          This is what I do… http://www.onlinecareer10.com

    2. “Effort” and “coercion” are only synonyms when the altruist Kleptocracy pronounces them.

  2. Who’s the cougar in the photo?

  3. Legalizing acid, weed, DMT, MDMA, mescalin, mushrooms and Bolivian ritalin will end the market for opiates. In fact, Tim Leary got in a heap of trouble for using psilocybin and LSD to cure alcoholism and opiate addiction. Pharma lobbyists own both kleptocracy parties. If you believe in freedom, and can get 1.4% of the vote in 11 election campaigns, you win. All it takes is voting with integrity.

  4. Y’know, the thing that most irks me about the MSM is that it injects its own opinion into articles that should be about facts only. In this article you guys do the identical thing and it irks me as much when YOU do it as when the professional liars and cheaters of the MSM do it.

    1. Reason has been doing so for its entire near-50 year existence. It’s our actual, openly stated mission to advocate for libertarian solutions. Our motto is “free minds and free markets.” This is not new and is not going to be changing. We are open about our advocacy.

      1. Time to think up a name for the libertarian version of JournoList. I say ReporTardz. HA! Okay, enough fun. Focus up. How about CapitaList? LiberTease? FreeMarClique? Laissez-frat.

        This is harder than I thought.

            1. I don’t know if it was because of the response. But during the NN arguments last week, someone kept calling people Libertariantards. Someone pointed out LiberTards was more natural sounding, and that person stopped posting. I like to imagine he was embarrassed by his inability to grasp the obvious portmanteau.

              1. But LiberTurd lets you fold *two* insults into one, which makes it 4 times as insulting. Or at least that’s what Sensei Mikey taught me in the monastery.

                Anyway, oughtn’t it to be LiberTardian, anyway?

                No, wait: LibRetardian!

        1. The Kochtopus orders you to contact your handler via the usual dead drop for remedial training.

    2. Journalism standards split writing into two genres.
      News reporting is supposed to be an impartial reporting of the facts. Opinions in news stories are supposed to be attributed to a person who speaks for a particular side of the issue, who was quoted by the reporter. A good news story contains opinions from all sides of the issue.
      Editorials, on the other hand, are the opinions of the authors writing them. They are expected to take a side, and be written to persuade.

      MSM claims to publish news, Reason claims to publish editorials. One of them is correct.

  5. Fuck you and your fucking war on drugs.

    Fuck You Jeff Sessions, Obama, Biden, Bush and all you other asshole supporters of the un Constitutional war on drugs which is more suited to a commie state.

    Right now I’m smoking some home grow.

    Try to arrest me you commie fuck faces!!!

  6. “Separately, and somewhat mystifyingly, the administration announced that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway will be its lead representative in the opioid fight.”

    Kellyanne, if you really want to play Ilsa, you got the part, okay? You don’t have to keep auditioning. This is really not the kind of role to take the Daniel Day-Lewis approach with.

  7. Our local TV news aired a “Town Hall” tonight on the “Opioid Crisis,” with a panel of folks representing “all sides of the issue.” Researcher who studies the crisis, social worker who works with those addicted, a former addict, a prosecutor.

    Conspicuously absent was anyone with chronic pain, or a physician who treats chronic pain.

    1. “Ah-HEM.”

      -American Fentanyl League and Congress of Industry for Opioids

  8. I think if we want to control opiates, we should start by looking at the actions of the pharmaceutical companies and their expansive lobbies that have much to gain from bribing groups like the AMA in order to increase sales at the expense of patients and communities. Follow the money!

    1. …all the way to Colombia and Kandahar.

      And despair, at the death and atrocity your corporatiophobia has unleashed.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.