U.S. Government Takes Next Step Toward Addressing Public Health Emergency

President Trump formally declares the opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency.

On October 26, 2017, President Trump formally declared the nation’s opioid epidemic to be public health emergency and directed agencies and resources to overcome this tragic situation.

In making his announcement, President Trump said,

“This epidemic is a national health emergency. As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.
“That is why, effective today, my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a National Public Health Emergency under federal law. And why I am directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis. This marks a critical step in confronting the extraordinary challenge that we face.”

In his address, President Trump referred to mobilizing the resources of government, communities and private organizations. He also stated that the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, formed earlier in 2017 and headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, would submit their final report next week. He also added,

President Trump and Governor Chris Christie meeting on the opioid crisis.
March 2017: President Trump and Governor Chris Christie.
“I want the American people to know that the federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts.”

Actions Taken and Planned

The speech included details of the way the drug addiction crisis was currently being addressed and some plans for the future.

  • The federal government is working with doctors to implement best practices for safe opioid prescribing.
  • Federally-employed prescribers will be required to receive special training in prescribing procedures.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require drug companies who make opioids to offer more training to prescribers.
  • The U.S. Postal Service and Department of Homeland Security are strengthening the inspection of packages to keep fentanyl out of the country from source countries such as China and Mexico.
  • Major Chinese drug traffickers have been indicted by the Department of Justice for distributing fentanyl in the United States.
  • The FDA is also removing one opioid he described as “evil” to be removed from the market immediately.
  • The CDC has launched a prescription drug awareness campaign.
  • The Justice Department is pursuing those who unlawfully prescribe opioids in community and through the internet. Individuals and companies will be subjected to lawsuits.
  • First responders will receive the support they need to get the overdose antidote naloxone.
  • The head of the National Institutes of Health has taken the first steps to create a public-private partnership with pharmaceutical companies to create non-addictive painkillers and new treatments for addiction and overdose.

President Trump also complimented the retail drugstore chain CVS/Caremark for taking action to limit first-time opioid prescriptions to just seven days’ worth of pills.

Emphasis on Prevention

The later part of the President’s speech focused on the prevention of drug abuse. He described a planned advertising campaign directed at preventing youth from wanting to use drugs by showing them the devastation caused by drugs. He described conversations with his older brother who was not able to control his drinking. As a result of his brother’s advice, President Trump has never drunk alcohol or smoked cigarettes.

He strongly emphasized prevention as an effective way to keep youth from wanting to use drugs. He noted that nearly a billion dollars in grants were being distributed to prevent drug abuse and commented on an $81 million partnership to research better pain management techniques for veterans. He also said that addiction treatment must be available to those in prison and he mentioned the suffering of orphans and children in foster care who lost their parents to drugs.

In conclusion, President Trump said,

“We understand the need to confront reality—that millions of Americans are already addicted. We want them to get the help they need… so they can recover and rebuild their lives with their families. We are committed to pursuing innovative approaches that have been proven to work, like drug courts. Our efforts will be based on sound metrics and guided by evidence and guided by results. Each of us has a responsibility to this effort.”


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.