Does our Opioid Epidemic Warrant a National Emergency Declare?

Governor Chris Christie
The President and chairman of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Governor Chris Christie.

Over the last few months, there’s been a lot of talk about declaring a national emergency to direct resources toward handling our epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose deaths. Here’s some of the significant events that have shaped the federal government’s response to this dangerous situation.

  • Throughout the first half of 2017, states like Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts declared public health emergencies. These declarations enabled state officials to direct more resources to solving the problem.
  • In June 2017, the medical reporting company STAT extrapolated the potential for fatal overdose deaths in America. If nothing changes and the increases we have seen in overdose deaths continue, STAT predicted we might see as many as 650,000 deaths in the next ten years. This prediction undoubtedly threw gasoline on the concerns many people had about the future effects of this epidemic.
The paraphernalia of addiction.
  • Also in June, the New York Times calculated the probable overdose death figure for 2016, using the limited information that was already available and estimating the rest. They came up with an estimate of 59,000 to 65,000 people who lost their lives to overdoses of prescription painkillers, heroin, fentanyl and similar drugs. This was an increase of more than 25% over the prior year.
Chris Christie, head of President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
  • July 31, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis headed by Chris Christie recommended that the president “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.” Again, this declaration would enable funds and support to be directed to organizations that would address the catastrophic loss of life.
  • In August, President Trump made such a declare. According to CNN, the President said, “We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Also Contributed to this Declare

Surely, a 2016 action by the CDC increased the awareness of the disaster that lies ahead if resources are not directed to overcome this problem. In a January 1 report, they calculated that half a million Americans had died of drug overdoses of any type between 2000 and 2014. This was a shocking way to look at the total impact of this epidemic. Up to this point, states, communities and families had counted their losses but no one had summed up the carnage quite so clearly.

At this writing, the exact way these additional federal resources will be allocated has not been announced. While this allocation is an important piece of solving the puzzle, the real truth is that every single American can and should contribute to the elimination of this problem.

How can you contribute to this solution? Here’s some ways;

  • Stay drug-free and drink alcohol in moderation or not at all. In other words, set a good example.
  • Make sure any young people in your care are fully aware of the harm that can come from even one use of an addictive substance. Opioids and stimulants are sometimes addictive the first time they are used. Alcohol and marijuana are slower to addict but once a person starts using these drugs, they may not quit unless they have a good reason. And that makes it easy to roll forward into addiction to these substances or the use of more quickly-addictive drugs like heroin or pills.
Father teaches his daughter about mechanics.
  • Help people – both young and old – focus on their goals, dreams and accomplishments that mean something to them. The more focused and motivated a person is and the more successful they feel in the accomplishment of goals, the less likely they are to reach for addictive substances.
  • Ensure that your kids know how to get out of situations where someone else might expect them to join in the use of drugs or alcohol. It’s smart to work out ways to escape these situations that don’t open them up to ridicule or scorn. Well thought-out scripted responses, practiced at home, can help.
  • Keep ALL pills and liquor locked up ALL the time that they are not actually being legally consumed.
  • Monitor where your children go, who they hang out with and if parents are home when they visit friends. Find out – how do those parents feel about young people drinking in their homes?
  • Be vigilant for signs of drug use. This is not a good time to be too trusting or too naive. There are simply too many life-threatening drugs on the market.
  • Be alert for stimulant use (Adderall, Ritalin and others) by students preparing for college, in college or in graduate school.
  • Educate your college-bound child well before they leave home on the drug-using and alcohol-abusing culture they may encounter at school. Help them work out how to stay focused on their education.
  • Support drug-free and alcohol-free events at colleges, neighborhood or community events.

And of course, if you know someone who is struggling with drug or alcohol use, who can’t bring their own use under control, call Narconon International today. For more than 50 years, the Narconon program has been helping those who are addicted recover lasting sobriety without the use of any drugs. Call 1-877-782-7409 today for help.

By preventing young people from ever starting to use drugs and helping those who are addicted recover, we can gradually turn this situation around to a healthier scene in which we do not lose friends, neighbors and loved ones to these deadly substances.



For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.