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Trump Wants to Arrest His Way Out of the Opioid Overdose Crisis

The president lacks subtlety or substance over a chronic public health problem—go figure.

TrumpMIKE THEILER/UPI/NewscomIt took almost no time at all for President Donald Trump to go straight to "Let's lock people up" when speaking about the opioid overdose crisis Tuesday.

Somewhat lost in the wake of the president's threatening comments about North Korea, Trump spoke at a briefing at the Trump National Golf Club in Bridgewater, New Jersey, about fighting opioid addiction. America, he insisted, can arrest its way out the problem. He wants more federal prosecutions, and he blames President Barack Obama for scaling back both arrests and sentences:

Meanwhile, federal drug prosecutions have gone down in recent years. We're going to be bringing them up and bringing them up rapidly. At the end of 2016, there were 23 percent fewer than in 2011. So they looked at this scourge and they let it go by, and we're not letting it go by. The average sentence length for a convicted federal drug offender decreased 20 percent from 2009 to 2016.

With those early comments, Trump is more in line with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' attitude toward ramping up the drug war and much less with the very commission whose preliminary report on the opioid crisis prompted this meeting in the first place.

The report wasn't focused on putting Americans in prison so much as it was on trying to get Trump to declare opioids a "national emergency," the aim being more government spending to fight addiction and more federal regulation of drug treatment and prescriptions.

Trump has resisted declaring a national emergency thus far. Do not mistake this for resisting a panic-based response. It's very clear from his comments that Trump (like Sessions) is stuck in the 1980s-1990s mindset that drug addiction is caused by creepy urban thugs on street corners luring children into trying some pills. So naturally, he's going to conclude that bad people need to be punished.

Here's how stuck in the past he is:

The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don't start, they won't have a problem. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off. So we can keep them from going on, and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, "No good; really bad for you" in every way. But if they don't start, it will never be a problem.

Just say no, kids! That quote above got plenty of mockery due to the pure paucity of actual thinking taking place. But that's because Trump is already sure he has all the answers. He needs a border wall. He needs more money for Department of Homeland Security and police. He wants the drug war to be even meaner. He wants police to be even meaner. His solution to the drug crisis is to punish people until they stop taking drugs. So he's not going to be terribly engaged in any subtleties of addiction management or what role the government should or should not be playing. He thinks the drug problem is because of bad people.

Photo Credit: MIKE THEILER/UPI/Newscom

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  • Crusty Juggler||

    His solution to the drug crisis is to punish people until they stop taking drugs.

    He is just keeping his promise to make America just like it used to be.

    #MAGA

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Hey, it worked for the black community.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    My emotional side tells me that if the Trump and Sessions drug war receives massive mainstream media attention - SWAT teams kicking down doors, mass arrests and incarceration, etc - that Americans will become shocked and outraged at how haphazard, violent and useless the police response is, and will strongly consider ending - or at least rapidly slowing down - the drug war.

    My logical side tells me that the drug war will be cheered by many, and the details ignored by most, like now.

    My ethical side will curl up into a ball and cry itself to sleep at night, as it is wont to do.

  • ||

    My ethical side will curl up into a ball and cry itself to sleep at night, as it is wont to do.

    Withdrawal symptoms if I ever heard 'em. Get him!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What does your sexual side tell you?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    To call your mom.

    BOOM!

  • Spartacus||

    Just say no and lock up those who don't.
    This time it will work for sure, if we just do it harder, amiright?

  • Ron||

    why do people think violence is the solution to non-violent addictions

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Because addicts who can't hold a job to pay for their addiction become violent thugs who kill people for money to fund their addiction. It's like you don't even drug warrior, bro.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think we need to not call this crisis. We're falling into their language and giving into the hysteria to some extent.

  • ||

    Binge? Recovery?

  • Wally||

    opioid enthusiasm

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin||

    You know what's kool about Reason magazine? In the face of war hysteria they can always be relied upon to post articles on weed and opioids. They did the same back in 2003 when GWB was getting ready to kill a million people in the ME and they're doing the same now with Trump. They were here though when Obama decided to fly a couple warplanes over Libya though because they are way principled.

  • Bubba Jones||

    They posted a NK article this morning

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Just ignore him.

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin||

    Why? I'm just saying we shouldn't go to war with a country that hasn't attacked us and is unlikely to do so. What kind of libertarian are you, anyway?

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    He's like that autistic kid screeching in the corner of the restaurant who you know you should ignore but you can't avert your eyes

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin||

    Cooler Foreign Policy Heads Than Trump Have Been Calling for North Korea Regime Change for Years

    You mean this one where Matt Welch basically says we shouldn't be concerned because every politician from Hillary Clinton to John McCain has threatened NK with nuclear war?

    That's some fierce opposition.

  • sarcasmic||

    mumble mumble axis of evil mumble mumble

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin||

    Why do you get so bitchy when I say Dear Leader sucks? You in love or what?

  • sarcasmic||

    Wow. You sure kicked that straw man's ass. Great job.

    Tell me, why do you get so bitchy when Reason doesn't write about subjects that you want them to about? You a loser who can't get his own ideas in print or what?

    Oh wait. John? Is that you?

  • sarcasmic||

    You know what's kool about Reason magazine? In the face of war hysteria they can always be relied upon to post articles on weed and opioids. They did the same back in 2003 when GWB was getting ready to kill a million people in the ME and they're doing the same now with Trump. They were here though when Obama decided to fly a couple warplanes over Libya though because they are way principled.

    How long 'till we get to the zoo?

    ftfy

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Keep speaking truth to power, bro.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Trump needs to go full Duterte. It's the only way to be sure.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    When all you've got is a hammer...

  • Azathoth!!||

    So the best way to prevent addiction is not to try to convince people to not do drugs in the first place?

    Do you not understand how stupid that sounds?

    What the hell?

    ERMAHGERD! They are talking to kids about how drug abuse is bad!!

    Abusing drugs IS bad--it can fuck up your life.

    Isn't it better to use debate and persuasion than guns and force?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    LOL

  • ||

    Abusing drugs IS bad--it can fuck up your life.

    I had a bit of this deja vu the other day listening to NPR. They had a recovering opioid addict talking about how their life was pretty generally fucked up but they accidentally tried fentanyl once and it almost killed them. No matter how fucked up their life got, they were *never* gonna use that stuff (again).

    It just seemed funny because there are plenty of 'recreational' drug users who've fucked up their lives who would say that about heroin and plenty of alcoholics and lung cancer survivors who would say that about alcohol and tobacco (and anything 'worse').

    While I do disagree with fighting the drug war and that people should be pretty free to be as stupid as they want, there is an element of 'stop listening to people who fucked up doing bad things'! to some of the argument. Like having regrets or learning from other people how not to have them is a bad idea.

  • rageon||

    You know what really, really, fucks up your life? A drug raid. A drug arrest. A prison sentence. A felony drug conviction. Oh, yeah, and police bullets. Watching your parent die at the hands of police and growing up knowing that the murderer didn't just walk free, but enjoyed a long and lucrative career after. Drug use may or may not fuck up a life. But here's the thing about drug use: it's almost exclusively a passive activity. People don't generally use drugs to deliberately hurt other people. But everything about the drug war -- every lie, every law, every raid, every arrest, every sentence -- is an act of malice. And, given the government's part in causing the current crisis, I would include most accidental overdose deaths in that category as well.

  • Ken Hagler||

    I have no idea if there _is_ an "opioid overdose crisis," but when I read about the government using it as an excuse to oppress people more I just automatically assume that opioid overdoses are down significantly in recent years and those that do occur are the result of medical mishaps rather than illegal use.

  • SIV||

    Do not mistake this for resisting a panic-based response.

    Would you rather the feds panic?

  • SIV||

    The report wasn't focused on putting Americans in prison so much as it was on trying to get Trump to declare opioids a "national emergency," the aim being more government spending to fight addiction and more federal regulation of drug treatment and prescriptions.

    I hope Trump continues to resist the progressive call to declare opioids a "national emergency". Shackleford seems to disagree.

  • AkiraFang||

    Wishing Mr. Trump to be healthy to serve the country

  • Robert||

    So Trump is like most people.

  • Jacks61||

    Pushing 50 years of the US Govt' fighting the war on drugs. It's far worse now than it's ever been, except now we have how many non-violent people locked up? How many private prisons are going to be built? Has anyone checked Sessions stock portfolio?

    Just say no, and drugs are bad for you won't work. Neither will locking up a bunch of non violent citizens.

  • rageon||

    "No good, really bad for you." My kids are grown, but I have grandchildren and at least one great-grandchild of an age to think about experimenting with "Drugs!" If I talked to them that way they'd be Googling "symptoms of dementia" and discussing the possibility of putting grandma in a home.

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