3 Weeks Out: Here’s How Our Next President Could Fight the Opioid Epidemic

Seedy scandals and unsavory sound bites have stolen headlines this election season. But for nearly two million Americans grappling with a person with substance use disorderion to opioid-based medications or heroin, our country’s most important issues have never been clearer. Less than one month away from election day, here are the 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: access to opioids, addiction treatment availability, and criminal justice reform.

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.

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. Increasing access to effective and affordable addiction treatment services is also included in both candidates’ official policy platforms accessible on their websites.

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, non-violent drug offenses to the medical treatment they need to address and overcome their addiction.

By contrast 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 improve domestic infrastructures through higher quality health care and improved criminal justice intervention, as in Clinton’s plan, or rolling back government regulation on physicians while eliminating foreign threats as Trump has suggested? If you’re not sure how else to pick, come November 8th consider choosing the plan you think will be most effective in ending this unprecedented public health crisis.