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Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump’s ‘Tough’ Drug Policies Are Not Smart

The president’s anti-opioid plan is heavy on tactics that have already failed.

During a visit to New Hampshire on Monday, Donald Trump gave a 19-minute speech about opioid abuse in which he used the word tough or variations on it 19 times, more than four times as often as he used the word smart. That ratio seems about right, given the details of the president's plan to end "this scourge of drug addiction in America" and "raise a drug-free generation of American children."

Trump's plan is heavy on tactics that have already failed. For instance, he favors "spending a lot of money" on "very, very bad commercials" that will "scare" kids away from drugs by depicting "pretty unsavory situations."

Trump does not seem to realize that the federal government already tried that, and the results were disappointing. Evaluations found that the taxpayer-financed propaganda did not make teenagers less likely to try drugs and may even have had the opposite effect.

Trump's supply-side ideas are equally innovative. "We have got to get tough," he said, and toughness requires "the death penalty for the really bad pushers and abusers."

The president's fixation on killing drug dealers is little more than a bloodthirsty fantasy. Congress approved execution of large-scale drug traffickers back in 1994, but the provision has never been carried out and probably never will, since the Supreme Court has said the Eighth Amendment requires that the death penalty be reserved for "crimes that take the life of the victim."

Trump also wants to reduce the weight thresholds for mandatory minimum sentences in opioid cases, which is more constitutionally feasible than copying Iran's drug penalties but no more likely to affect the drug supply. As every tough drug warrior who has preceded Trump during the last century has discovered, the economic incentives created by prohibition mean there are always more dealers to replace the ones behind bars.

Those same incentives spell doom for Trump's plan to "keep the damn drugs out" by building a "big, beautiful wall" along the border with Mexico. Drug smugglers attracted by prohibition profits will always find ways around, over, under, or through any wall, no matter how big or beautiful.

Trump bragged that U.S. Customs and Border Protection "seized nearly 1,500 pounds of fentanyl last year, nearly three times the amount seized in 2016." Since CBP will never manage to intercept more than a small percentage of incoming drugs, rising seizures are a sign of failure, not success, especially when they are accompanied by falling retail prices.

The government has more control over the supply of legally produced opioids, which are subject to quotas set by the Drug Enforcement Administration and regulation of the doctors who prescribe them. "We're going to cut nationwide opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years," Trump said.

That strategy does not seem very promising, given that opioid-related deaths mainly involve heroin and illegally produced fentanyl. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioid prescriptions fell by 16 percent from 2012 to 2016, while the number of opioid-related deaths rose by 82 percent.

Restricting the supply of pain pills contributes to that death toll by driving nonmedical users into the black market, where the drugs are more dangerous because purity and potency are unpredictable. The pressure to reduce prescriptions also hurts legitimate pain patients, who are left in agony when their doctors arbitrarily decrease their doses or cut them off entirely.

The Trump administration reportedly wants to impose the CDC's opioid prescribing guidelines, which encourage doctors to be as stingy as possible with pain pills, on patients covered by Medicaid or Medicare. That will mean more unnecessary suffering for innocent people deprived of the medication they need to have a decent quality of life.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks victims of the crackdown on pain pills should "take some aspirin" and "tough it out." Like his boss, he does not seem to realize there are some problems toughness cannot solve.

© Copyright 2018 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Robespierre Josef Stalin Pot||

    Nope, Jacob, Trump is way better than Obama. I mean, he doesn't know what the fuck he's saying half the time so, really, can he be held responsible for his proposal to hang coke dealers by the neck until they're dead? Can't we cut him some slack?

  • DajjaI||

    For pain patients, the problem is easy to solve - just infiltrate your local 12 Step meeting and claim to be an addict (it's like calling yourself a sorcerer - anyone can do it) and make up stories. It's actually kinda fun. But then you can see the manipulative losers for whose sins you are suffering. Make fun of their silliness. That would put an end to this nonsense pretty fast.

  • MichaelL||

    Interesting idea! I could kick a bunch of them in the butt! Sadly, a big part of our problem is a media that thinks they know more than those who are suffering! Their misdirected propaganda helps no one. The war on drugs is how many years old? Yet, it has done nothing to reduce drug overdose and deaths. Someone needs to start thinking out of the box! Continuing a failed concept is, straight up, insanity!

  • sarcasmic||

    Trump's plan is heavy on tactics that have already failed.

    Only because they weren't tried hard enough!

    Evaluations found that the taxpayer-financed propaganda did not make teenagers less likely to try drugs and may even have had the opposite effect.

    You mean that when teenagers are fed a bunch of lies and false warnings, that they react by ignoring all warnings, even the legitimate ones?

    Isn't there a childrens' story about this?

    Restricting the supply of pain pills contributes to that death toll by driving nonmedical users into the black market, where the drugs are more dangerous because purity and potency are unpredictable.

    Nuh uh! That's not the intention, so it can't be the result! It's the drug dealers' fault for pushing the drugs!

  • ||

    Drug "dealers" don't force anything on anyone. The seeking out and buying of drugs on the illicit market could be framed as one of the most consensual, free willed activities, like the buying of cloths and food, both of which are equally sought out and consensual.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it. The effects of the war on drugs were predictable, and closely resemble those effects of prohibition.

  • gaoxiaen||

    If my choice is facing the death penalty when surrendering or having a shootout and maybe escaping, I'd kill as many cops as I could, and hope for the best, since I'd have nothing to lose.

  • Jerryskids||

    More TDS. Don't listen to what he says, watch what he does. See, Trump knows the "get tougherer on drugs" agenda is never going to be enacted so he can whine that he's a smart guy with a simple plan but those losers in Congress are unfairly blocking his program and it's all their fault drugs are killing millions of babies every day. On the other hand, Sessions as AG can re-schedule drugs and hardasses like Cotton and would-be hardasses like Graham and Trump-lickers like King might actually enact this shit and then Trump will whine that this isn't what he meant and those losers in Congress are unfairly trying to pin the blame on him for all the pissed-off old folks with crippling pain.

  • Heraclitus||

    More Republican fear agenda and their solution to be "tough". One of their greatest hits. Just keep feeding the masses with this pablum. "Law and Order". Build walls. Lock them up. Can libertarians please admit that Republicans have a thirst to control and that their insistence on "free markets" is a charade? They are not into free anything except freedom to loot.

    On a side note. If Republicans were serious they would be executing half their children. Whenever some bro scores a bag, divides it with his buddies and takes a little extra for himself as the price for doing all the work and taking the risk, he is a drug dealer. Honestly folks, we all know these bros and their daddies are Republicans.

  • ||

    There are, indeed, many on the right who are just as keen to control others', and to deny that individuals, with free agency, are responsible for the consequences of their actions, unless such be politically expedient to state otherwise. This rhetoric is a big step backwards for common sense.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Drug smugglers attracted by prohibition profits will always find ways around, over, under, or through any wall, no matter how big or beautiful.


    Perhaps Trump should consider building a small and ugly wall to see if that makes a difference...

    One like it did the same job wonderfully...

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Drug warriors are lousy people.

    Trump supporters (those who ardently support him, distinguished from those who merely appeased the backwardness, ignorance, and intolerance by voting for him) are lousy people.

    A match made in goober heaven.

  • Mark22||

    The president's anti-opioid plan is heavy on tactics that have already failed.

    Doubling down on failed policies is a progressive hallmark. Just allow Trump a little bit of fun with that too.

  • fortuenti||

    Indeed, when it comes to "drugs," the Republican answer has ALWAYS been a mirror of the perennial progressive liberal Democrat modus operandi: MORE GOVERNMENT and LESS FREEDOM because WASHINGTON-KNOWS-BEST!

    http://1776spiritus.blogspot.c.....-drug.html

  • ||

    For F#@ck sake, the death penalty is on the table, not only for the 'pushers", but also for those "really bad" abusers. What special interests are being pandered to, those with frontal cortex deficiencies, aside?

  • Wearenotperfect||

    Has the simpleton population of America not figured out that Drumpf suffers from set-up-to-fail syndrome!

  • Tionico||

    Yeah, Reefer Madness, the live action cartoon, REALLY made kids scared of drugs back then. Hah!!

    The BEST way to knock out the opioid "epidemic" is to DE-list the single most effective pain releiver, which also is a powerful anti-inflamatory, and can be administered in ways that do not bring any psychoactive effects to the user. It is now falsely labelled Schedule One on the false premise that it is HIGHLY addictive (no it is NOT) and has NO medical use whatsoever (of late proven VERY false as it has may known medical benefits, not the least of which are listed above.
    HOW did the world trade in opium get to the point where it is now in size and scope? Answer: WHO established a thriving opium industry in Afghanistan in order to provide a reliable funding source for the Taliban to better enable them to fight off the Russians that were working on building an oil pipeline that the establishers of the industry did not want to see built? THERE is the root of the problem.

  • Tionico||

    Yeah, Reefer Madness, the live action cartoon, REALLY made kids scared of drugs back then. Hah!!

    The BEST way to knock out the opioid "epidemic" is to DE-list the single most effective pain releiver, which also is a powerful anti-inflamatory, and can be administered in ways that do not bring any psychoactive effects to the user. It is now falsely labelled Schedule One on the false premise that it is HIGHLY addictive (no it is NOT) and has NO medical use whatsoever (of late proven VERY false as it has may known medical benefits, not the least of which are listed above.
    HOW did the world trade in opium get to the point where it is now in size and scope? Answer: WHO established a thriving opium industry in Afghanistan in order to provide a reliable funding source for the Taliban to better enable them to fight off the Russians that were working on building an oil pipeline that the establishers of the industry did not want to see built? THERE is the root of the problem.

  • Tionico||

    Yeah, Reefer Madness, the live action cartoon, REALLY made kids scared of drugs back then. Hah!!

    The BEST way to knock out the opioid "epidemic" is to DE-list the single most effective pain releiver, which also is a powerful anti-inflamatory, and can be administered in ways that do not bring any psychoactive effects to the user. It is now falsely labelled Schedule One on the false premise that it is HIGHLY addictive (no it is NOT) and has NO medical use whatsoever (of late proven VERY false as it has may known medical benefits, not the least of which are listed above.
    HOW did the world trade in opium get to the point where it is now in size and scope? Answer: WHO established a thriving opium industry in Afghanistan in order to provide a reliable funding source for the Taliban to better enable them to fight off the Russians that were working on building an oil pipeline that the establishers of the industry did not want to see built? THERE is the root of the problem.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The Honorable Donald J. Trump just wants to save people's lives, just as David Hogg wants to save people's lives.

    What if his tougher drug policies saves even one life?

  • FredC||

    Harming your body is prohibited by the 5th Commandment. The demand for drugs would be reduced if our society returned to God. To the Godless person, life has no absolute purpose; therefore, there is no fundamental basis for good and evil from which a rational argument can be made against drugs. Drugged to oblivion then is just one path a person can take.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The 5th Commandment prohibits murder, not self-harm.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    The only drug policy that Trump could implement that would find favor with Reason/Libertarian's would be FREE handouts of whatever anyone wanted.
    I would welcome that effort to thin-out the druggies from the gene-pool.

  • fortuenti||

    Pinnacle of GOP Hypocrisy: Drug War https://tinyurl.com/y9c87kdz

  • fortuenti||

    "You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."
    ~ Donald Trump, 1990

    I think what might have changed his mind was the CIA debriefing him on how much they depend on the income from its importation empire to fund black ops. Then, of course, there's the prison industry and its vast pool of SLAVE LABOR to consider also.

    http://articles.chicagotribune.....nt-efforts

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