Donald Trump’s response to the opioid crisis was horrifically incompetent from the beginning and hasn’t improved. With White House counselor Kellyanne Conway taking a direct character and sidelining medical specialists, even some Republican senators are frustrated.
However, Conway is not the only problem. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s accountable for the law enforcement side of the problem, has empathy for opioid-addicted Americans nor any understanding of their medical challenges.
Last week, Sessions gave a speech to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, also seen on footage obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, he made an eyebrow-raising proposal to finish the opioid issue.
“I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids,” Sessions said. “I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out.”
— Chris Urso (@TB_TimesCurso) February 7, 2018
While it is true the opioid epidemic partly began with pharmaceutical companies aggressively marketing opioids beyond their medical necessity, forcing terminal cancer patients or car accident victims to just “take some aspirin” and “tough it out” is a clueless and callous idea.
Not merely is Sessions reducing the crippling agony many opioid users have gone through, but he doesn’t appear to know a major structural cause of the opioid epidemic: that many other treatments for chronic pain, like physical therapy, are only available to affluent communities and people.
The motive the opioid emergency has hit areas like rural Kentucky and West Virginia is these areas are too bad to finance any other kind of pain therapy. They will need national funding and support to correctly correct this, not aspirin.
In a much deeper irony, some studies suggest one of the least expensive ways states have decreased opioid dependence is to legalize marijuana. But Sessions, a hardliner who’s urging federal prosecutors to override country legalization, refuses to take the evidence.
On the contrary, at another talk at the Heritage Foundation this week, in which Sessions also suggested chronic pain patients “take a couple of Bufferin and go to bed,” he brought up the gateway drug myth. “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”
Sessions have boiled chronic pain, dependence, as well as the socioeconomic structures that exacerbate it down to issues of will and decision. As long as that is his attitude, he will be of no use in addressing a crisis of public health.