Trump Administration Touts Progress on Tackling Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON—One year after President Donald Trump promised the “scourge of drug addiction in America will stop,” the administration says it is seeing progress.

One of the measurements it is looking at is the amount of prescription drugs that are being collected on National Take Back days, a biannual event where people empty out their medicine cabinets of potentially addictive medications.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Take Back days netted 931.62 tons of unused prescription drugs in 2018, 906 tons in 2017, and 803.6 tons in 2016.

Trump has secured a promise from Chinese leader Xi Jinping for China to criminalize all forms of the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. The majority of fentanyl, U.S authorities charge, is produced in China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the rise in opioid deaths in the United States is being fueled by fentanyl.

Trump said last year that he wanted to see the death penalty introduced for drug traffickers and that position hasn’t changed, a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call on March 19.

In an effort to stop illicit drugs from being sent through the mail, surveillance of packages coming into the country is up.

From the 2016 to 2018 financial years, there was a 1,000 percent increase in international parcel seizures and a 750 percent increase in domestic parcel seizures related to synthetic opioids, according to the White House.

opioid death rate cdc 2000-2017
Overdose death rates involving opioids from 2000-2017 by type. (CDC)

Drug overdose deaths, while still historically high, are starting to plateau, according to preliminary data put out by the CDC.

It’s not clear how much of that plateau is related to a decline in opioid overdoses. The most recent data the CDC has for opioid overdose deaths is through 2017, and at that point, it shows a sharp upward trend.

overdose deaths over last year
Provisional data on drug overdose deaths over the last 12 months. (CDC)