A State of Emergency for the Opioid Crisis: Would It Really Make a Difference?


A recent study by Addictions.com looked at the Trump administration’s declaration that the opioid crisis would henceforth be considered a public health emergency in the United States. Though this could be potentially helpful, the study determines that declaring the problem to be a state of emergency, rather than a lower-grade public health emergency, could actually benefit the country in more ways. Would this change actually make a difference, though?

According to Addictions.com, public health emergencies last for 90 days and are usually meant to address serious but short-term issues, such as an outbreak of a strange disease, a serious natural disaster, or an accident that resulted in a large number of fatalities. Usually, these issues are expected to be resolved in most ways by the end of the 90 days (although the president can reinstate the emergency after it expires). While the opioid crisis has been a problem more than 20 years in the making, many feel this isn’t a valid declaration and that too many people and problems will fall by the wayside as a result.

The declaration could actually create a number of positive steps toward solving the opioid crisis, like allowing more people in rural areas to receive care and removing some of the barriers from those with government insurance programs from seeking out-of-network treatment. However, in the long run, this seems it will do little to create real change. This is only part of the reason why people are demanding that the government take a more powerful step and declare the opioid crisis to be a state of emergency in the U.S.

If the government were to declare the opioid crisis a state of emergency, many aspects of the problem would change, including allowing for more people to seek treatment, reducing some of the stigma associated with addiction, and even increasing access to necessary treatments like naloxone and medication-assisted rehab. More and more people would be likely to get the help they need, and the declaration would make the country more aware of the problem, even potentially creating more understanding for those suffering from it. Also, a state of emergency would last for a year, which would give government officials more time to create real change, and more departments could actually become involved in trying to fix the problem.

Though these two types of crises may seem identical, once you examine their differences, it is easier to understand why the country requires a more serious declaration of a state of emergency when it comes to opioid addiction. This declaration could actually work toward helping more people and making more of a difference, which is sorely necessary. Every year, more people die of opioid overdose, and with 59,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016 alone, it is time to start recognizing the problem for what it is: a national crisis that has become more serious each year, that has lowered the life expectancy of Americans for the first time in decades, and that requires serious help in the form of government intervention.