Addiction experts worry about opioid crisis under Trump

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Professionals working in addiction medicine are worried about how President-elect Donald Trump and his administration will address the country’s opioid epidemic.

Some fear that repeal of the Affordable Care Act will mean people addicted to drugs will lose access to treatment and that accidental deaths from opioid overdoses will increase. People working in the addiction field worry that Trump’s approach--his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border and prosecute drug traffickers--is the wrong one to tackle the real problem, according to a report in STAT.

The leading causes of overdose deaths are from alcohol and prescription drugs, Greg Williams, cofounder of the group Facing Addiction, told STAT. “A wall is not going to have anything to do with deaths related to those two issues.”

On the campaign trail, Trump said that he had met families who had lost relatives to addiction and pledged to help. Trump promised steps such as increasing access to the overdose medication naloxone, encouraging state and local governments to provide more treatment and speeding up approval of new painkillers less likely to be abused, according to the report.

“I am wanting to see some serious strategies come out quickly,” William Cooke, M.D., a primary care doctor in Indiana whose community is facing a drug-related HIV epidemic, said in an email to STAT. “For now, I think we are all waiting to see what happens.”

A major worry is that repealing the ACA could eliminate insurance coverage for many people in recovery. Constance Scharff, Ph.D., who serves as the director of addiction research for the Cliffside Malibu treatment center in California, said repeal of the ACA will make it difficult for individuals to gain access to care for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Since the election, Trump has said he will keep some aspects of the health reform law and replace the ACA with better, less expensive insurance. But Scharff worries that people could lose health insurance. “This is in a time when accidental opioid deaths are killing tens of thousands of people a year. How will those who need addiction treatment access it?” she asked in a statement sent to FiercePracticeManagement.