Trump Administration’s Opioid-Fighting Plan

Trump Administration’s Opioid-Fighting Plan – What Clinicians are saying


The nation’s opioid epidemic has grown in to a national emergency.  In an effort to reduce the overdose rate by 40% over the course of the next 3 years, the Trump administrations new strategy will appropriate over $350 million dollars worth of grants to hospitals and universities in the states impacted the most by the opioid crisis: Kentucky, Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts. This is according to the HEALing Communities Study – a government-founded multisite implementation research study that will collect evidence about the tools used for the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction at the local level.

Dr. Vikram Tarugu, a South Florida-based opioid addiction treatment/recovery specialist and founder of two award-winning detox/rehab facilities commented on the administration’s effort to curb the relapse/overdose rate stating this “funding will help to support community partnerships which will help to reduce the OUD rate”.  He went on to state that “through increased funding, we should see an increase in the number of struggling addicts that receive medication-assisted therapy which consequently will increase the patient retention rate in treatment programs”.

Recovery support programs and distribution of Naloxone play a huge role in the successful recovery of struggling addicts.

With this new round of funding, such efforts can be better exercised at the local level which the government claims to be the most effective approach in dealing with the epidemic.Opioid Crisis

The HEALing Communities Study offers financial aid to 4 academic institutions of which are in partnership with locally-founded community organizations.

These government-issued grants were awarded to four organizations, including:

  • University of Kentucky, Lexington
  • Boston Medical Center, Boston
  • Columbia University, New York City
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus

“This new unprecedented effort lead by the Healing Communities Study will help our nation to collectively improve our understanding of effective intervention for the treatment of opioid addiction.  It’s a big step forward in our national effort to curb the rate of opioid-induced relapses/deaths.  It’s a public health crisis and one that needs to be addressed immediately,” MD and addiction recovery specialist Vikram Tarugu stated in a response to the effort.

This public health epidemic of opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose is affecting millions of Americans.

More Deaths from Opioid Abuse
More Deaths from Opioid Abuse

Combating this crisis will require innovative scientific solutions and increased commitments from local, state, and government agencies.  During “National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Awareness Week”, the HEALing Communities Study announced how their integrated approach will “test an array of intervention treatment techniques/programs” for the treatment of OUD.

Standing for “Helping to End Addiction Long-term”, the HEALing Communities Study will leverage the power of science to improve the outcome potential of opioid-based recovery treatments to bring hope to those that have been most affected by this crisis.  The current list of treatments, evidence-based preventative care, and recovery interventions proposed by the program are recovery strategies not yet used nation-wide.  One unacceptably low statistic is the number of struggling addicts that actually receive treatment.  About one-fifth of those struggling with opioid use disorder receive actual treatment for the condition.

Of those that “do” receive treatment about one-third receive medications, of which are universally deemed to be “standard level care” medicine.  However, even in the times where medication is used as a part of treatment, the duration of time in which medication is prescribed is commonly shorter than initially planned.  This, consequently, contributes to the ever-growing relapse rates that our nation has been seeing (especially within the first 6 months of treatment).

Vikram Tarugu, MD, addiction treatment and recovery specialist, Rehab South Florida:

Dr. Vikram Tarugu
Dr. Vikram Tarugu

“There are multiple components of the HEALing’s effort that will truly give it a strong chance of success.  First and foremost, real-time data in conjunction with an integrated approach will ensure recovering addicts receive the care they need.  This program will include evidence-based preventative care, addiction recovery treatment and interventions, and extended support for behavioral/mental health.

One of the greatest strategies to combating the opioid crisis is the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s focus on extending support “first” to the areas that are most impacted.  There’s no time to be wasted on interventional efforts that had previously failed.  I strongly believe that by funding and supporting the local communities that are challenged the most with this healthcare crisis that HEALing is a great step towards ending the epidemic”.

While the proposed plans to combat the opioid crisis is a good start, debates among clinicians on whether or not it’s “enough” to curb relapse and overdose rates pursue.  Hopefully, the Trump administrations plans on the issue will become a bit clearer as more details surrounding the program unfolds.

Criminal justice is a highly discussed component of the government’s effort on the matter.  Trump’s administration made vague statements on adjustments to the criminal justice system that will correlate with the use of opioids, and, we’re hoping incarcerating opioid users isn’t a part of the plan to combat the healthcare epidemic.  The United States houses more inmates than any other country which are most non-violent drug offenders.

How Should we Address Opioid Addiction
How Should we Address Opioid Addiction

Based on prior drug epidemics (and even the current opioid crisis), studies have shown that incarceration doesn’t greatly impact one’s drug use.  In fact, it’s counterproductive as research showed that those struggling with a substance use disorder that received prison time were more likely to heighten their drug use post-release (which also increases the overdose rate).

It’s important for opioid-dependent individuals to have the opportunity to receive evidence-based treatments and care – options that aren’t available to struggling addicts in prison.

It’s often agreed upon among clinicians that the opioid crisis could have been easier to rebound from if deregulation of drugs used to treat opioid addiction took place.  Thankfully, eighteen state public health directors, highly respected members of congress, and a growing number of physicians are pushing to have the deregulation of opioid-fighting drugs (Suboxone/buprenorphine ) approved.

It’s a pretty simple question – Why are doctors that prescribe opioids not allowed to prescribe medications that treat the addiction to the opioid?

In April, 2019, support from Rep. Paul Tonk is being shown as new legislation will soon be introduced that would allow medical practitioners that are licensed to prescribe controlled substances to also prescribe buprenorphine.  Currently, for a licensed physician to prescribe buprenorphine, he/she must undergo an 8-hour training course.  Physician assistants and nurse practitioners must undergo 24-hour training.

The opioid crisis is responsible for claiming over 50,000 lives each year and through integrated treatment plans and locally funded initiatives it’s a step in the right direction that over time will begin to curb the number of abuse cases and overdoses.