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Donald J. Trump’s Destructive and Counterproductive Views on Drugs, Especially Opioids


Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed his views that countries with death penalty laws for drug trafficking have no problems with drugs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The countries that have the worst problems have reacted to them in the most retrogressive fashion.  The Philippines is one country that has devolved into open warfare between government agents and drug users, with many innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.  Contrariwise, countries that have embraced decriminalization or even legalization have tamed their drug problems.  Portugal is a good example of a country that has dramatically reduced its problems with drugs by legalizing them and putting their resources into treatment and rehabilitation for drug users.

Mexico may follow the example of Portugal in decriminalizing drugs– former President Vicente Fox has come out strongly in favor of this position (See this Time article from 2011).  The bloodshed in Mexico that followed their declaration of a “war on drugs” has shown that drugs are simply too profitable and too popular to interdict successfully.

Mr. Trump’s retrograde position on drugs (and that of his Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions) is openly hostile to the concept of rehabilitation and harm reduction, and in favor of failed, violent responses to the problem.  If he is allowed to continue along this track, we will see increasing levels of reactive violence in the United States approaching those that have developed in Mexico.  Those who make their money selling drugs, if they are threatened with the death penalty, will have no hesitation in obtaining firearms and dealing death to their competitors, the police, the DEA, and innocent bystanders.

Mr. Session’s retrograde attitude to the state-led decriminalization of cannabis has already been noted and discussed.  It is clear that Mr. Session’s treatment of states that oppose Federal laws on this subject will only lead to more dissension and potentially violent opposition, not to mention the immediate disastrous effects for powerless individual drug users.

Parenthetically, again, the DEA’s reaction to the crisis in opioid overdoses is counterproductive and mean-spirited.  They have reacted by directing prescribers and pharmacists to greatly restrict the prescription of opioids for pain, and directing manufacturers to reduce the production of painkillers by 25%.  This is despite the fact that there has been little increase in the volume of prescription opioids dispensed over the last ten years– the recent huge increase in overdose deaths has been entirely due to use of illicit heroin, much of which has been fortified with illicit fentanyl.  Reducing the availability of prescription opioids will only drive those desperate for pain relief to the illicit market (where it is cheaper in any case) and increase overdose deaths from the use of fentanyl-enhanced heroin.

(photo “rastaman” courtesy of and Alexas_Fotos)

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