We are less than one month away from election day, and for the nearly 2 million Americans suffering from addiction it couldn’t come soon enough. Here are the three major points of each presidential nominee’s plan to fight back against the opioid epidemic and win. Although the candidates and their plans differ significantly, both revolve around three key issues: 1. access to opioids, 2. addiction treatment availability, and 3. criminal justice reform. Both candidates seem to agree that increasing treatment resources will be key to reversing the nation’s addiction problem. Clinton and Trump both mention opioid-specific overdose-reversal drugs by name and call for all emergency responders to be equipped with such proven life-saving drugs. They are both for increasing access to effective and affordable addiction treatment services. Clinton’s plan sees prescribing physicians as a key source of opioids in our country. By educating physicians on both the risks associated with long-term opioid prescriptions as well as alternative means of managing chronic pain, Clinton’s policy stands poised to make a huge dent in the overall level of opioid-based medications in circulation throughout the country. Alternatively, Trump’s plan anticipates that his cornerstone domestic policy initiative to build a physical wall between the United States and Mexico will halt the flow of illegal opioids into the country, effectively curtailing addiction by cutting off supply. While Trump does not mention the role of prescribing physicians in the ongoing medical epidemic, he does advocate for physicians’ unlimited agency to prescribe opioid-based anti-addiction medications like buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone, currently capped at nearly 300 patients per doctor.
What differs significantly between the candidates is their view on how we should use criminal justice reform to best eliminate opioid addiction. Clinton’s plan identifies the court system as an opportunity to redirect those arrested for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses to the medical treatment they need to address and overcome their addiction. However, Trump champions increased use of the criminal justice system to better identify and deport undocumented immigrants charged with drug trafficking. Although it is less emphasized, Trump also suggests that local governments should operate drug courts presumably for citizen addicts, to mandate drug addiction treatment. In this election cycle, ending the opioid epidemic comes down to technique. Would it be better to go the Clinton route and improve domestic infrastructures through higher quality health care and improved criminal justice intervention, or do as Trump suggests and roll back government regulation on physicians, while also eliminating foreign threats? Important things to keep in mind when looking at where the future of addiction lies in this Presidential race.